What APA is Doing for You: Seeking Answers on COVID-19 Health Care Disparities
Among the global disruption caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, we are seeing the alarming data about the impact that the virus is having on minority and underrepresented groups. We know that people in communities of color are likely to experience persistent disparities in health care. While we are still coming to grips with the full implications of this pandemic, it is evident that these health disparities are a fact that is exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis.
That is why APA has sent a letter to Secretary Alex Azar of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) asking that his agency collect, analyze, and make publicly available comprehensive data on race and ethnicity related to the testing status, hospitalization, and mortality associated with COVID-19.
African Americans make up only about 13% of the U.S. population, and yet about one in three people who have been hospitalized with COVID 19 are African American, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Nearly 90% of African Americans hospitalized with COVID-19 had one or more underlying health conditions. Nursing homes, with close living and care conditions and a greater risk among older adults with chronic conditions, have been particularly affected by COVID-19. Among nursing homes hardest hit by coronavirus, the distinguishing factor is not the quality of care, but the percentage of people of color who live there, according to an investigative report from NPR.
Other communities of color have been hit hard by the pandemic as well. In New Mexico, data released shows Native Americans make up 10% of the population, but 37% of the people who have contracted the virus. Data from New York City, as of April 16, shows that while Latinos consist of 29% of the city’s population, they represent 39% of those who have succumbed to COVID-19.
Many factors are likely contributing to the increased vulnerability to COVID-19, including higher rates of obesity, diabetes and other chronic conditions, as well as chronic stress and other issues related to poverty.
Long-standing disparities in health care among racial/ethnic diverse communities are among the contributing factors. Additionally, communities of color are less likely to have access to paid sick leave or opportunities to work remotely, adding to their risk of exposure to COVID-19.
We are concerned that the racial discrimination, medical and financial implications of the coronavirus pandemic will compound existing health care disparities for millions of Americans in minority and underrepresented groups.
APA will continue to seek action to ensure that communities of color have access to quality health care. HHS needs to do vital work to support health care systems across the country as they respond to the pandemic. We urge them to collect and release this information quickly so that we can ensure that resources and treatment are available to vulnerable groups affected by COVID-19.
This blog post is part of an occasional series highlighting how APA advocates on your behalf to support the profession of psychiatry and put our interests before key policymakers.