Racism ‘could play a part in BAME Covid deaths’

Factors such as racism and social inequality may have contributed to increased risks of black, Asian and minority communities catching and dying from Covid-19, a leaked report says. By BBC News

Historic racism may mean that people are less likely to seek care or to demand better personal protective equipment, it says.

The Public Health England draft, seen by the BBC, contains recommendations.

Other possible factors include risks linked to occupation, it said.

And inequalities in conditions such as diabetes may increase disease severity.

The report, the second by PHE on the subject, pointed to racism and discrimination as a root cause affecting health and the risk of both exposure to the virus and becoming seriously ill.

It said stakeholders expressed “deep dismay, anger, loss and fear in their communities” as data emerged suggesting Covid-19 was “exacerbating existing inequalities”.

And it found “historic racism and poorer experiences of healthcare or at work” meant individuals in BAME groups were less likely to seek care when needed or to speak up when they had concerns about personal protective equipment or risk.

The report concluded: “The unequal impact of Covid-19 on BAME communities may be explained by a number of factors ranging from social and economic inequalities, racism, discrimination and stigma, occupational risk, inequalities in the prevalence of conditions that increase the severity of disease including obesity, diabetes, hypertension and asthma.”

Recommendations include:

  • Better data collection about ethnicity and religion, including having this recorded on death certificates to accurately monitor the impact on these communities
  • Making it law for health risk assessments to be done for BAME workers and giving them better representation in the health service
  • Culturally sensitive public health messaging so that people, particularly those who may not speak English as a first language, understand the advice on how to protect themselves
  • Continuing work to tackle racism and discrimination within the health service with a clear commitment to increase diversity in leadership at all levels.

The draft report from Public Health England says questions remain on the role of diet and vitamin D and makes clear no work has been done to review this evidence yet.

A recent review confirmed the risk of death from Covid-19 higher for ethnic minorities. PHE found that people of Bangladeshi heritage were dying at twice the rate of white Britons, while other black, Asian and minority ethnic groups had between 10% and 50% higher risk of death.

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