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Examining the COVID-19 Health Disparity for Black and Latinx Populations Subject of Student Commentary

   Dylan Macciola and Zafar Karimov
  Dylan Macciola and Zafar Karimov

With the disproportionate morbidity and mortality of Black and Latinx populations during the COVID-19 pandemic not easily explained given the limited reported data, Dylan Macciola, SOM Class of 2023, and Zafar Karimov, SOM Class of 2023, recently commenced a study to explore two concepts known to play a large role in the delivery of health care – implicit bias and social determinants of health – and examine how they factor into the current health crisis.

“In March, during one of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s daily briefings, he highlighted the initial state-reported data that suggested that African American and Latinx populations across the country were disproportionately suffering worse complications of coronavirus infection and he posed the question of why this was occurring. We sought to try to answer this question for ourselves,” said Mr. Macciola and Mr. Karimov.

After examining state-reported data to determine the extent of the reported disparity, they found research suggesting that the disparity went beyond just higher rates of morbidity and mortality.

“As of June 2020, state-reported data across the country have demonstrated that Black and Latinx populations have higher rates of COVID-19 infection, fewer referrals for testing and higher mortality rates,” said Mr. Macciola and Mr. Karimov. “In New York City, we found that stay-at-home orders disproportionately put people of color at risk, as a greater percentage of African American and Latinx populations comprise the majority of the workforce deemed essential, according to Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order.”

With their initial study now complete, for their next step, Mr. Macciola and Mr. Karimov would like to engage in a larger discussion with their peers to encourage them to examine their own potential biases.

“Although we can’t definitively conclude that implicit biases and social determinants of health were the sole contributors to the health disparities in African American and Latinx communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been well-documented in previous literature with regards to the broader disparity in health care.” 

 “Because social determinants vary greatly across the country, we believe that contributes to the variability in the initial state-reported data. However, as other states begin to see greater numbers and report more population data, we believe that we’ll be able to get a clearer picture of whether or not social determinants do account for the variability and get a closer look at what other social determinants may be at play.”