What Does Race Have to Do With COVID-19?

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, communities of color have been — and continue to be — hit disproportionately hard. Let’s talk about why.

When it comes to the racial health disparities that have emerged throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, some have postulated that genetics are the underlying cause. But the data indicates that something else is at play.

If we take the U.S. as an example, 13% of the country’s population is Black, but Black people make up 24% of deaths from COVID— that means that Black people in the U.S. are dying at a rate that’s roughly double their population share.

So, what accounts for the massive racial health disparities that we see in say, the U.S.?

A person’s health is the result of a number of things beyond their actual body (and their control): access to healthcare, socioeconomic status, where you live, what language you speak, what job you have, your healthcare provider, and so much more.

In this Elements, we speak with Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, Director of the Equity Research and Innovation Center at the Yale School of Medicine, to find out more about what COVID-19 racial disparities look like and why they exist.

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