CQUni-led university study finds COVID-19 cases much higher among racial minorities

09 July 2021

A joint COVID-19 study' led by CQUniversity has found that the prevalence of cases is higher in non-white communities.

Lead Researcher on the study' CQUniversity's Dr William Mude said the paper (which is published in the journal of Global Health) explored racial disparities in COVID-19 outcomes in terms of cases' hospitalisations' and deaths.

"The study is a collaborative systematic review and meta-analysis involving researchers from CQUniversity' University of Canberra' Flinders University and the University of Technology Sydney.

"It was conducted in the backdrop of conflicting reports relating to the COVID-19 burden in different communities in developed western countries. The aim of the review was to synthesise the different studies that reported COVID-19 cases' hospitalisations and deaths among racial groups to better understand the disproportionate burden of the pandemic in the community."

Dr Mude said the study found that cases of COVID-19 in the black community was 156 per cent higher' for Hispanics was 154 per cent higher' and for other race groups was 104 per cent higher than in white non-Hispanics community.

"We tested this difference using statistics and found that the observed difference in cases was indeed significant from the cases reported in white non-Hispanics community'"

he said.

"Hospitalisation rates in the black community were 153 per cent higher' for Hispanics was 78 per higher' and for other race groups was 51 per cent higher than in the white non-Hispanics community'"

he said.

He said the rate of hospitalisation experienced by the black community is statistically different from white' Hispanics and the other race groups.

Deaths in the black community was 105 per cent higher' for the Hispanics was 15 per cent higher' and for the other race groups was 29 per cent higher than in the white community. Deaths in the black community linked to COVID-19 was significantly different from white' Hispanics' and other race communities. Although black and Hispanic communities experienced a similar burden of COVID-19 cases' black people had higher hospitalisation and death rates than whites' Hispanics' and people from other race groups.

The study indicated the racial disparities in COVID-19 outcomes pointed to the years of systemic disadvantages experienced by racial minorities in western developed countries. The data points to these issues in western developed countries' albeit existing differences between and within countries.

"While healthcare systems between and within countries may differ' our findings highlight that the observed outcomes are beyond healthcare access and availability but rather reinforces how systems upstream (social disadvantages' racism' unemployment' housing issue' economic and social disenfranchisement etc) can come together in a powerful way to determine individual and community health'"

he said.

He said that the findings were vital to inform relevant policies around COVID-19 treatments in developed western countries' including Australia.

"We believe this finding is relevant to developed western countries' including Australia' to inform support policy' especially when demographic information on COVID-19 outcomes is sometimes not made publicly available or lacking'"

he said.

"Our study confirms the imminent need to quickly address underlying social determinants of health including racism and discrimination' socioeconomic disadvantages and inclusion of all people across issues' especially in education so we can improve overall health outcomes in these communities."

Associate Professor Lillian Mwanri from Flinders University said the COVID-19 pandemic has only heightened the impact of existing inequities impacting minority communities' not only in the U.S and U.K' but across the globe.

"Our study highlights the importance of collecting sociodemographic information to support an effective public health response and strategic planning. We need to defeat socially and economically driven disadvantages experienced by racial minorities that make them vulnerable to COVID-19 infections to effectively prepare for battles against future pandemics'"

Assoc Prof Mwanri said.