Fighting COVID-19’s Disproportionate Impact on Black Communities With More Precise Data

Posted by Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) on June 23, 2020

By weaving together an unusual array of data into a simple measure of a community’s vulnerability to COVID-19, health care practitioners can develop tailored interventions to help Black Americans, who disproportionately bear the burden of the pandemic.

Though Black Americans make up 13 percent of the country’s population, they account for 22 percent of the deaths connected to COVID-19, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We see this disparity—another manifestation of decades of systemic racism and deeply entrenched inequity in America—in individual cities and states across the country. In Chicago, 30 percent of the city’s population is Black but they have accounted for 45 percent of COVID-19 deaths. In Louisiana, 32 percent of the state’s residents are Black and they have suffered 53 percent of the COVID-19 deaths.

Public health officials trying to respond to this racial disparity in COVID-19 outcomes may understandably resort to solutions that are as broad and blunt as the available data on the deaths, which typically account for little more than racial background. However, the responses that will be most effective may not be as universal as the problem appears to be for Black Americans. The best responses can and should vary from person to person or community to community, according to experts, from the authors of a recent viewpoint in the Journal of the American Medical Association to researchers writing in the July 2019 issue of Proceedings of the National Academies of Science.

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