Racial gaps and disparities in medicine and health outcomes in the United States remain pervasive — particularly among women and children. A new Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) report analyzing fatal cases of coronavirus among people 21 and under sheds new light on what these disparities mean in a global pandemic disproportionately affecting people of color and low income people.
According to the report examining cases reported to the CDC from mid-February to late July of 2020 (more than 390,000 cases and 121 deaths), a staggering 78 percent of the children who died from coronavirus (COVID-19 and MIS-C — the multi-system inflammatory syndrome identified earlier this year — cases) were children of color. Researchers found that 25 percent of the deaths were Hispanic children, 29 percent were Black and 4 percent were non-Hispanic American or Alaska Native.
Contextualizing these findings calls on a lot of the different intersecting barriers to healthcare, food and what households have the privilege of isolating (whether from working in essential in-person fields, needing out-of-home childcare, etc.) in 2020.
“Among infants, children, and adolescents hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 and cases of MIS-C, persons from racial and ethnic minority groups are overrepresented,” the researchers note. “These racial/ethnic groups are also disproportionately represented among essential workers unable to work from their homes, resulting in higher risk for exposure to SARS-CoV-2 with potential secondary transmission among household members, including infants, children, adolescents, and young adults. In addition, disparities in social determinants of health, such as crowded living conditions, food and housing insecurity, wealth and educational gaps, and racial discrimination, likely contribute to racial and ethnic disparities in COVID-19 and MIS-C incidence and outcomes.”
And, when we talk about gaps in healthcare, uninsured and under-insured households are more likely to have situations where care and intervention are delayed: “Higher rates of adverse outcomes among racial and ethnic minorities are likely related to challenges in seeking care for various reasons, including difficulty and delays in accessing health care services because of lack of insurance, child care, transportation, or paid sick leave, and social determinants of health that contribute to higher prevalence of medical conditions.”
These numbers follow earlier reports that the virus was doing significantly more harm in communities of color for adults, as well, due to these same intersecting inequalities caused by class and race. Which also means that it’s an imperative to look for ways to center the experiences and needs of these vulnerable populations when considering plans for safely “re-opening” to reduce harm to these groups further and help to be more proactive about the domino effect of inequality and health .
“These communities share common social and economic factors, already in place before the pandemic, that increase their risk for COVID-19,” Dr Sherita Golden, M.D., M.H.S. said in a report for Johns Hopkins earlier this year. “…Because there is currently not a vaccine or anti-viral treatment for COVID-19, physical distancing, hand-washing and wearing masks are crucial public health interventions to prevent the spread of the disease to these vulnerable populations.”
Before you go, check out our all-natural cough and cold remedies for kids: