Courtesy of: The New York Times/Demetrius Freeman
The COVID-19 pandemic has made the healthcare disparities in black and Latino communities devastatingly apparent.
Nearly 33% of the United States’ hospitalized population are black patients; even though they only make up 13% of the population, according to Allison Aubrey, NPR. The disproportionate amount of hospitalizations in these communities displays a lack of equality and equity available to the people in these communities.
Minority populations across the country suffer disproportionately from poverty, chronic disease and lack of access to good healthcare, education and nutrition, according to a New York Times article. If these pre-existing conditions; chronic illnesses, and detrimental environmental factors contributing to their health were addressed prior to this epidemic, fewer people would have been affected, especially those in low-income minority populations.
States with large minority populations are the hardest hit by the pandemic, including New York, Michigan, Illinois and Louisiana. These pockets all across America are seeing devastating losses of life. It is very sad that these communities are being affected at a greater rate than others. People in these low-income minority populations work paycheck to paycheck and need to be able to rely on steady income in case anything happens.
The New York Times reported 70% of COVID-19 deaths in Lousiana are black individuals, even though they only make up about 33% of the state’s population.
The New York Daily News reported that Hispanics account for 34% of COVID-19 deaths and black people for 28%. Considering both the black and Hispanic community make up 29% and 22% of New York City’s population respectively, it’s troubling that these numbers are so high.
Neighborhoods in New York City such as Queens and Bronx-14 are the most heavily impacted districts in the country, according to Katie Honan of The Wall Street Journal. These boroughs specifically have a large Latino and black population. These working-class neighborhoods are prime examples of the virus greatly affecting minority populations.
This public health inequity should have been addressed before the pandemic to prevent the disproportionate amount of deaths in minority populations. Due to existing faults in our healthcare system, it will be harder to restructure these systems now in the middle of a health care emergency.
Minorities are suffering more because people in these communities have been suffering at higher rates from many pre-existing conditions that increase the risk of poor outcomes in individuals infected with the virus, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health, as reported by NPR.
90% of the individuals hospitalized for COVID-19 have underlying health conditions, including high blood pressure, obesity, chronic lung disease, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. These pre-existing conditions are often due to environmental factors, like pollution and poor living conditions. It can also be the inability to get proper healthcare or nutrition, according to Dr. Anjum Hajat. In low-income areas, environmental factors that impact chronic illnesses are prevalent and hard to get rid of as there is no access to money to deal with the root of the issue.
Also, many of these individuals are considered essential workers, such as food workers and water and waste management employees; they do not have the luxury of being able to stay at home. Even if they could stay home, people in these low-income neighborhoods, especially in densely populated cities, have no way of staying isolated at home in small apartments with many tenants. They all rely on public transit to get to where they need to be. Subways and buses are often overcrowded making social distancing nearly impossible for the individuals using them.
COVID-19 is a virus that infects all populations and ages, but underserved populations have been suffering more due to the pre-existing socio-economic imbalances. The economic disruption from the pandemic creates these imbalances, which will likely be worse later. There needs to be immediate and concrete steps taken by our society right now to correct this devastating situation.