COVID-19 and Health Equity — Serving the Underserved, Poorly Served, and Never Served

June 10, 2020

National Academies of Sciences Engineering and Medicine  |  Feature Story | May 5, 2020  |  By Stephanie Miceli

The novel coronavirus has been called “the great equalizer,” when in reality, it has only exacerbated health inequities that racial and ethnic minorities have experienced for decades, according to panelists who participated in two recent webinars.

During two recent webinars, experts outlined why the fight against COVID-19 should be concentrated in cities with populations that are majority black and other underserved groups.

Early data has showed black and Latino populations make up the majority of coronavirus-related deaths in cities including New York City, Chicago, and New Orleans. Often, they are already entering the health care system at a disadvantage — whether because of underlying chronic conditions, or due to fear that wearing a mask will incite racial profiling, said Stephen Thomas, director of Maryland’s Center for Health Equity. Some chronic conditions that increase one’s risk for COVID-19 complications — such as diabetes, obesity, and asthma — stem from a long legacy of housing segregation, which has placed black and brown communities in the midst of food deserts and poor air quality.  Read more