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Since the early days of the pandemic, we have heard how people from black and south-Asian ethnic backgrounds have a greater risk of dying from Covid-19 compared with white people.
There are many explanations for this, including a greater chance of being exposed to coronavirus as a result of working in industries that bring you face-to-face with more people, or the fact that some minority ethnic groups are more likely to live in multigenerational households.
But health inequalities are another major factor, and a new study examines the nature of these disparities in unprecedented detail.
Consistent with other findings, Ruth Watkinson and colleagues at the University of Manchester found that people from minority ethnic groups are more likely to suffer from chronic health conditions – such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure or obesity – compared with white British people, and a greater number of them.
Both obesity and diabetes are associated with a greater risk of death from Covid-19, as are various other health conditions. But that still does not tell the whole story of why people from ethnic minorities are disadvantaged when it comes to the virus.
One question is why people from BAME backgrounds are more likely to suffer from these conditions. People from minority ethnic groups are statistically more likely to live in socially deprived neighbourhoods, and to have less income than their white counterparts. This makes it harder for them to access healthy food, and green spaces or gyms to exercise in.
Once you are suffering from a chronic health condition, your ability to access the support services you need to maintain a decent quality of life and stay healthy is also impacted by your ethnicity.
People from some minority groups – particularly Asian groups – were more likely to report poor experiences at their GP surgery. They were also more likely to report not getting enough support from other local services to help manage their health condition, and to say that they felt less confident about managing their own health, compared with white people.
The survey was conducted before the pandemic struck, but the situation is unlikely to have improved, and may well have been made worse.
Indeed, a recent report by the Office for National Statistics found that during the pandemic people from BAME groups were more likely to work longer hours and less likely to be employed and eligible to be furloughed.
Meanwhile, several national surveys suggest people from BAME backgrounds are far more likely to reject having the Covid-19 vaccine compared with the general population.
Experts say something is going wrong with our health system, which means that people are not getting the information and support they need.
Moving out of the pandemic, they say the government needs to reinvest in services which support people’s health, and ensure they are culturally and linguistically inclusive, and accessible to people from all communities.
Rebuilding trust in the health system among people from BAME backgrounds presents another major challenge, requiring a genuine willingness to listen to, and act upon their concerns.
As Wilkinson points out, it is somewhat inevitable that some people will develop long-term health conditions as they age. But it is not inevitable that that should affect their quality of life so deeply, and it certainly should not be determined by their ethnicity.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Health inequalities in UK are major factor in high BAME Covid cases | Health