Poor black Americans more vulnerable to Covid-19, New York study finds

There are stark disparities in Covid-19 death rates in New York City's five boroughs.
There are stark disparities in Covid-19 death rates in New York City's five boroughs.
Image: 123rf/Fabio Formaggio

Poor black people who contract Covid-19 are more likely to end up in hospital and die, a study in New York City has found.

Researchers in the epicentre of the pandemic in the US found that the Bronx - the borough with the highest proportion of racial and ethnic minorities, the most people living in poverty and the lowest levels of education - had higher rates of hospitalisation and death related to Covid-19 than the city's other four boroughs.

Hospitalisation and death rates were lowest in Manhattan, the most affluent borough, where the population is mainly white.

The number of Covid-19 deaths per 100,000 people was nearly two times greater in the Bronx than in Manhattan.

"Prior studies have shown disparities in health outcomes across New York City's five boroughs - Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island," said the study's lead author Rishi Wadhera from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre.

"We wanted to evaluate whether similar patterns have also emerged amid the Covid-19 pandemic."

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggested they have.

Using data from the US Census Bureau and the American Hospital Association, Wadhera and colleagues looked at population characteristics such as race, socioeconomic characteristics such as income, poverty and education, and hospital bed capacity across the five boroughs.

They evaluated rates per 100,000 people of Covid-19 testing, hospitalisations and deaths.

"The substantial differences in death rates across New York City boroughs are concerning," said Wadhera. "We need to understand the extent to which underlying comorbid illnesses, occupational exposure, socioeconomic determinants of health and race-based structural inequities explain the disparate outcomes among boroughs to help shape public health strategies and policies to mitigate and contain Covid-19."

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