African Americans are disproportionately more likely to say a family member or close friend has died from the coronavirus or respiratory illness since March, the Associated Press reports.
What We Know:
- Findings from three COVID impact surveys conducted between April and June by the NORC at the University of Chicago show that 11% of African Americans say they were close with someone who died from coronavirus, compared with 5% of the American population overall and 4% of white Americans.
- Experts note that pre-existing conditions and limited access to healthcare are reasons black Americans have been affected by the virus but historic racism and mental trauma caused in the decades following slavery are also contributing factors, professionals added.
- “Our healthcare system is founded on racism, and our communities have been essentially made sick by racism. We carry the highest disease burden in almost every parameter. We were already in a crisis,” said Dr. Uché Blackstock, a former associate professor at the NYU School of Medicine and the founder of Advancing Health Equity.
- In Louisiana, 16% of black adults, as opposed to 6% of white adults, are close with someone who has died from the virus. Black Louisiana residents represent about 33% of the state’s population but account for 53% of the state’s nearly 3,000 COVID-19 deaths, according to data from the state’s health department.
- In Atlanta, 14% of African Americans have a family member or close friend who has died, compared with 4% of white adults. The statistics show 12% vs. 4% in Baltimore, Maryland; 15% vs. 2% in Birmingham, Alabama; and 12% vs. 4% in Chicago, Illinois.
- The striking disparities show how effected the black community truly is compared to other Americans regarding COVID-19. “It’s not just about what’s going on right now, it’s really what has gone on for decades regarding structural racism, implicit bias, discriminatory housing policies and the like,” said Dr. Patrice Harris, former president of the American Medical Association, the first African-American woman elected president of the organization.
University of Michigan health behavior and health education professor Enrique Neblett noted that black American’s may be dealing with mental struggles due to the pandemic, economic fallout, and high profile killings within the past few months. “We do know that when you experience loss at unexpected times, there is scientific evidence showing that that’s related to worse health outcomes later on in life. I think these impacts may be generational,” Neblett said.