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February 17, 2021

How The Pandemic is Exposing Well Documented Disparities

It is well-known that racial disparities exist in our healthcare system. However, more recently, long-standing inequities are being exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. As the number of infections and deaths in the United States continues to rise, data reveals that African Americans are disproportionately affected compared to whites. Yet, Black people face more barriers to accessing quality healthcare. Social determinants of health include anything from age to sex and income levels. Identifying and addressing healthcare disparities can close the gap. 

Higher Incidence of Covid-19 in Black Neighborhoods

In April 2020, 52% of new coronavirus cases and a shocking 70% of all Covid-19 related deaths in Chicago were in Black neighborhoods, although they make up just 14% of the population. Other hard-hit areas, including New York City, Milwaukee, Detroit, and New Orleans, showed a similar trend, with African Americans having the highest numbers of hospitalizations and fatalities due to Covid-19 complications. 

Socio-economic Disparities

Lower-income levels in African American communities represent the most significant barrier to accessing quality healthcare. According to NPR, drive-through testing failed in April due to hot spots located in Black communities where many residents didn't own cars. Moreover, since most Black people live in crowded settlements and challenging housing conditions, it further increases their likelihood of getting infected and spreading the virus faster. The wealth gap is stark; In 2016, the average household income of a typical white family stood at $171,000 or ten times greater than that of a Black family at $17,150. A study published in PMC also shows racial and ethnic disparities in health insurance coverage affecting mostly Black people and Hispanics. Compared to whites, they had a lower rate of insurance coverage across all ages. 

Chronic Health Conditions in Black Communities

African American men and women are at a higher risk of dying from Covid-19 due to underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. These risk factors are due, in part, to poor dietary habits in Black communities. Due to lower-income levels, African Americans will often opt for cheap, processed food and fast-foods that harm their health in several ways. An increased emphasis on eating healthful fruits and vegetables coupled with regular physical exercise can improve health and wellness in Black communities. 

According to Frances Jackson of #FACTSNOTFEAR, a Covid-19 health outreach campaign in Wichita, Kansas: “Covid-19 patients with diabetes have higher rates of serious complications and death than people without diabetes.” “We have an obligation to raise awareness of how diabetes, high blood pressure, and other conditions prevalent in the Black community can cause adverse Covid–19 consequences.” 

Tackling Healthcare Disparities: The Black Barbershop

For many decades, barbershops have served as essential institutions within Black communities in the U.S. The barbershop is regarded by many Black men as a sanctuary for exchanging thoughts and ideas while living in a challenging socioeconomic climate. 

The Black Barbershop (BBHOP), a health outreach program by Dr. Bill Releford, operates out of barbershops across the country and online. It takes healthcare initiatives for Black American men to the grassroots. BBHOP focuses on informing Black people about making lifestyle changes to improve their immune systems and combat chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. 

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