COVID-19 and the African American Community
December 08, 2020
It seems like an eternity since you heard that Sars Cov2 (Covid-19) was coming to America. At first, it was considered the great equalizer because no one was immune. But that proved not to be true. As the virus' spread across the United States, it exposed pronounced racial fault lines. African Americans are more likely to die from the disease than white Americans. How much more? A lot. Based on data from the many states (26) reporting racial data,African-Americans account for 42% of the deathsfrom Covid-19, as published by the Associated Press on April 9th. The data also suggests that the disparity is found highest in the South. In Louisiana and Mississippi, African-Americans account for a horrifying 65% of known Covid-19 deaths. Many local communities havefound similar patterns in their data. What's the story here? Why is there such disparity? Like the parable of a group of blind men who have come across their first elephant and conceptualize it only by touch, each feels a single different part of the elephant's body and draws a different conclusion - but each has only a small part of the total picture. So it is with the disparity of health amongst the African American population compared to the general population.
." He cites that African-Americans' risk of higher exposure to Covid-19, has deephistorical roots. This includes legal segregation in schools and housing, discrimination in the labor market, and redlining, denying home loans to those living in predominantly African American neighborhoods. These are the strong forces that have contributed to a persistent racial wealth gap, with African Americans continuing to struggle for economic parity with whites and having the opportunity to move into neighborhoods with the kind of socioeconomic opportunities that allow white families to avoid exposure Covid-19 better.
A disproportionately high percentage of African Americans live in geographical locations that increase their risk of exposure.Only 44% of African Americans own their own homecompared with almost 74% for whites. This vastly increases exposure risk for a family living in a crowded inner-city apartment and a more densely packed community, according to epidemiologist Martina Anto-Ocrah of the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York.
Robert Sampson and fellow Harvard sociologist Robert Manduca showed that poor African-American neighborhoods havehigher levels of lead, and air pollutionthan even poor white communities.African-Americans' disproportionate exposure to air pollutionhas beenlinked directly to chronic health problems, including asthma, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
There are additional health concerns related to African American neighborhoods. According toJoseph Valenti, a physician in Denton, Texas, who promotes awareness ofthe social determinants of healththrough his work with the Physicians Foundation, "If they also live in a food desert, they have to put themselves in greater risk if they want access to healthy food. They may need to take a bus, with people that have Covid-19 but aren't showing symptoms, to get access to nutritious food."