Covid in the Black Community

By Maura Mulholland

COVID-19 has been an all-consuming and destructive presence internationally for over two years. While it has impacted everyone negatively, certain groups have experienced the virus with more intensity than others. COVID-19 has further emphasized disparities between racial, ethnic, and class groups, and this has been reflected in death tolls and case counts throughout the pandemic. 

Black Americans are especially prone to discrimination when it comes to seeking treatment from the coronavirus. This is in large part because of discrimination and inequity within the medical system. 11.7% of Black Americans are without health insurance, compared to 7.5% of white Americans. A lack of health insurance makes a person much less likely to seek the medical treatment they need. As the pandemic spread, disparities in testing also became apparent. In Kansas, as of June 2020, only 4,854 of 94,740 tests were attributable to Black people, with 50,070 tests coming from whites. This highlights a massive lack of access to testing for Black populations, who at that time accounted for almost a third of COVID deaths despite being only 12.4% of the state population. 

Medical racism plays a major role in Black medical treatment, as well. Within hospitals, Black patients are more likely to be given older and cheaper medications for the same problems white patients have, and are also more likely to be discharged early when recovering from surgery, at a stage when discharge is inappropriate. These problems stem from widespread and misinformed beliefs in the medical field, for example that Black patients feel less pain than whites, or that they are likely seeking pain medications as a result of substance problems. These biases, implicitly or explicitly, have negatively impacted the care Black Americans have received during COVID.  

Beyond the abysmal disparities in the doctor’s office, social issues surrounding the pandemic have also negatively impacted Black communities. In one survey, participants were asked whether they had experienced harassment because of the spread of COVID-19, and due to perpetrators’ conclusions that they may have the disease. 22.1% of participants from major racial groups in the United States reported discriminatory behaviors relating to the coronavirus. 42.7% of participants in the same survey reported that people acted afraid of them. While this form of discrimination was most common among Asian-American and Indigenous populations, it took place most often in Mississippi, which has the highest relative population of Black Americans among the states. 

COVID-19’s toll on the planet has been astronomical, upending the routines of people from all walks of life. But for marginalized groups, especially the Black population, the coronavirus has only increased discrimination and sharpened the impact of existing social stratification. Taking responsibility for public health means addressing all aspects of the way science and society intersect, and means addressing both the medical disparities and social disconnects of the modern world 

The Dobbs Decision Will Be Disastrous for Women of Color

In its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled the Roe v. Wade ruling which found that the U.S. Constitution protects a pregnant women’s right to have an abortion without excessive government restriction. This new ruling removed the constitutional protection, meaning that states and local governments can legally pass additional laws which restrict a woman’s access to abortion or outlaws it all-together. Many states already have latent abortion laws on the book, which will now go into effect without the prohibitions established by the Roe decision. While this ruling is rightfully being interpreted as an attack on women’s rights nationwide, increased restrictions on abortion will be especially damaging for women of color.  

According to the Associated Press and the Kaiser Family Foundation, African American women make up 40% of the female population in conservative states, but account for upwards of 80% of legal abortions. Black women in the United States are five times more likely to have an abortion at some point in their lives than white women. Most studies have found that higher abortion rates among women of color are the result of lower contraceptive access and a greater risk of pregnancies with complications. Black women are three times more likely to die from issues related to childbirth than white women, and are much less likely to have their pregnancy related issues treated seriously by healthcare professionals. African American women also disproportionately live in conservative states, where abortions access is more likely to be restricted. This means that they also tend to live in states where they have limited access to Medicaid and the type of housing and food assistance that will ensures the health of babies in low-income families. As such, the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade should be viewed not only as an attack on the bodily autonomy of women nationwide, but also a method for ensuring the continued poverty and lack of healthcare access for communities of color. It is not incidental that conservative policymakers have long pursued a policy which disproportionately targets women of color. The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade should be viewed as a focused attack on African American women nationwide.  

Mental Health Act reforms aim to tackle high rate of black people sectioned

Reforms to the Mental Health Act will help tackle the disproportionate number of black people sectioned, the government has announced.

Black people are more than four times more likely to be detained under the act and more than 10 times more likely to be subject to a community treatment order.

The package of reforms includes piloting culturally appropriate advocates so patients from all minority ethnic backgrounds can be better supported to voice their individual needs and allow sectioned people to nominate family members to represent their best interests if they are unable to do so themselves.

The proposed changes build on the recommendations made by Sir Simon Wessely’s independent review of the Mental Health Act in 2018 and will ensure the act’s powers are used in the least restrictive way, the Department of Health and Social Care said.

The reforms will also ensure neither autism nor a learning disability are grounds for detention under the act and improve access to community-based mental health support to prevent avoidable sections.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said: “I want to ensure our health service works for all, yet the Mental Health Act is now 40 years old. We need to bring mental health laws into the 21st century. Reforming the Mental Health Act is one of our central manifesto commitments, so the law helps get the best possible care to everyone who needs it.

“This is a significant moment in how we support those with serious mental health issues, which will give people more autonomy over their care and will tackle disparities for all who access services, in particular for people from minority ethnic backgrounds.”