The State of Black Health During and After COVID-19
Recent reports are disturbing concerning the coronavirus in the U.S. Even though the virus does not discriminate on race, religion, or culture, some of the most recent statistics are disturbing. Such reporting requires a more fundamental discussion as to why are the infection and mortality rates disproportionately affected people of color. On a personal level, I know directly of eight individuals whom I have commonly associated within the past year who have been positively diagnosed; each of them is African-American.
A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned on social media that this is a virus that should not be underestimated among the African-American community. We have a history of underlying health conditions known and unknown. In my upcoming book, The Mahogany Legacy Project, I discuss at length healthcare disparities in African Americans when it comes to diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, and end-stage renal failure. For example, African Americans needing dialysis due to end-stage renal failure mirrors COVID-19 infection and mortality rates (30%). Such similarities bring cause for alarm for a race that makes up only 13% of the population. One of the common trends identified in the research reveals the substantial distrust of the medical community, riskier behaviors, and significant substance abuse issues that continue to deteriorate our health. Therefore, exposure to the virus has likely increased the probability of fatality.
There are several reasons why the infection is disproportionately higher that I anticipate will come out in additional research and studies. Mistrust of the medical community is a chief concern as, despite the warnings on a global scale, the pandemic was minimized slowly among African Americans at a level similar to those in right-leaning circles. Second, the lack of adequate access to healthcare before the pandemic has more of us exposed to serious health issues if infected. Third, income level and individual levels of employment create significant exposure as well. More data is revealing that higher levels of income have correlated to lower infection rates. This is not saying that those individuals will not get affected; however, the rates continue to show that correlation stubbornly. Finally, urban areas are at the highest exposure rate due to heavy reliance on public transportation and other public resources available. There is a direct link to occupational illness and disease exposure and ethnic backgrounds based on job selections and labor placement. These areas of concern will still exist when the pandemic ends, but this does not negate the call for change, conversation, and action among us.
There are indeed other events, exposures, and occurrences that could eventually have a higher mortality or diagnosis rate than COVID-19 when the pandemic ceases, but what is unique about this event that should not be lost on us, is healthcare awareness. The fear of death by the unknown should encourage us to improve our healthcare outcomes overall. Even if you are under mandatory stay at home orders, this is an excellent opportunity to switch your diet, improve your cardio activity, and make visiting your physician a priority well before your ailments continue to deteriorate to chronic ailments.
Our investments in health financially and physically are significant for building generational wealth and building a legacy for generations to come. There will be more pandemics in the future, more significant illnesses and disease to come; however, this is a defining moment for this generation and beyond. Understanding our physical and mental health provides the primary foundation to build our dreams, visions, and designs for a better future for our children and children’s children. Our future depends on our ability to keep conversations relevant about obesity, substance abuse, mental health, heart disease, and diabetes so we can collectively improve the outcomes that tend to skew negatively.