UAlbany releases report on pandemic health disparities in minority communities

COVID-19

Licensed practical nurse Yokasta Castro, of Warwick, R.I., draws a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a mass vaccination clinic, Wednesday, May 19, 2021, at Gillette Stadium, in Foxborough, Mass. A month after every adult in the U.S. became eligible for the vaccine, a distinct geographic pattern has emerged: The highest vaccination rates are concentrated in the Northeast, while the lowest ones are mostly in the South. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – On Thursday, researchers at the University at Albany released “Differential Impacts of COVID-19,” a report analyzing the impact the pandemic had on different racial demographics across the state. The year-long project analyzed the disparities in Black, Hispanic, and other minority communities.

“The trauma inflicted on New Yorkers by the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be undone,” the report says. “But university researchers and government policymakers should jointly pledge to do everything in their power not to allow the lessons learned from COVID-19’s unequal path across New York to go unheeded.”

The research team examined minority health disparities in infection, hospitalization, and death rates alongside social, economic, and environmental factors. The sobering lessons learned from the virus include that interventions were not well-tailored to low-income communities and communities of color.

They found that risk levels, the spread of the disease, and the effects of mitigation measures like stay-at-home orders differed sharply across minority groups. Outcomes varied by socioeconomic indicators like census tract, public transit density, and food security. The research underscores the need for expanding non-English language services, the pivotal role Black churches played in relaying public health messaging, and the distrust of the medical community that interfered with contact tracing and vaccination efforts.

Researchers say these issues are part of a broader system of racism in the U.S. “COVID-19 did not create disparities in health outcomes, but rather exposed and exacerbated them in ways policymakers cannot ignore,” they wrote. “Systemic racism has produced, and continues to produce, deeply entrenched differences in health care and the social, economic, and environmental conditions that account for inequities in longevity and the likelihood of disease. This was true long before the first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in New York on March 1, 2020, and will remain true unless the resources and will exist to make systemic changes.”

The project began in the earliest days of the pandemic at Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s direction. It led UAlbany to create a new health equity research ecosystem. Several other white papers and reports are now available at the university’s Scholars’ Archive.

“I am very proud of the work conducted by our outstanding researchers and colleagues at UAlbany and beyond, which led to this excellent report,” said UAlbany President Havidán Rodríguez. “Though the completion of the report is undeniably important, the work must continue and as such, we have now entered the next phase of this critically important initiative with our expanded community of researchers and others committed to health equity for and throughout New York.”

The project team also collaborated with the Healthcare Association of New York State on a webinar series called “Turning the Tide: Understanding and Eliminating Minority Health Disparities.” Register online to participate in an upcoming webinar, and take a look at the full report below: