Why African Americans are dying at higher rates from COVID-19?

AFP
Washington, United States Published: Apr 08, 2020, 07:23 AM(IST)

Countries that have least cases of coronavirus pandemic Photograph:( AFP )

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Experts say blacks are disproportionately impacted by underlying health conditions linked to poverty, face discrimination in medical care, and are more likely to work jobs that require them to leave their home.

The new coronavirus isn't biased about who it infects -- so why does data emerging from some states suggest that African-Americans are bearing the brunt of the pandemic in the US?

Experts say African-Americans are disproportionately impacted by underlying health conditions linked to poverty, face discrimination in medical care, and are more likely to work jobs that require them to leave their home.

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"We know that African Americans are more likely to have diabetes, heart disease, lung disease," the nation's top doctor, Surgeon General Jerome Adams told CBS News on Tuesday.

These chronic illnesses, which are in turn linked to poverty and structural racism, can lead to more serious forms of the COVID-19 disease.

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Adams, who is himself African-American and has high blood pressure and asthma, added, "I represent that legacy of growing up poor and black in America. 

"And I, and many black Americans, are at higher risk for COVID."

There is no nationwide data available on COVID-19 cases by race, but a pattern of over-representation by African Americans has emerged in states or jurisdictions that are sharing the numbers.

Sixty-eight per cent of coronavirus deaths in Chicago have been among African Americans, who make up just 30 per cent of the city's population.

"Those numbers take your breath away," the city's mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday at a coronavirus briefing. "This is a call to action for all of us."

The trend is repeated in North Carolina, Louisiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and the capital Washington.

Doctor Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, told AFP the issue was also linked to social class, with African-Americans people more likely to work jobs deemed essential that expose them to potential infection.

"That population is more public-facing," he said. "More bus drivers, more people taking public transportation to work, more people providing services in nursing homes, more folks working in grocery stores."

The problem is compounded by implicit and explicit bias that African Americans face in the medical system.

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