Surviving Sickness and Stigma: Black Michigan COVID-19 Survivors Suffer Worse Outcomes than Others

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On top of already being disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and having a higher risk of catching the virus, Black COVID-19 survivors face other challenges according to a recent University of Michigan (U-M) study released this month.

 

The study, part of the Michigan COVID-19 Recovery Surveillance Study conducted through a partnership with the U-M School of Public Health and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Researchers, want data from the study to inform future response and health equity efforts for the ongoing pandemic as well as future public health crises.

 

Major findings from the study, which consisted of 637 surveys from COVID-19 survivors in Michigan, include:

 

  • More Black than white respondents reported severe or very severe symptoms (73 percent vs. 61 percent) or required an overnight hospital stay (45 percent vs. 28 percent).
  • More Black respondents reported increased social stressors since the start of the pandemic, with 26 percent being unable to pay important bills like mortgage, rent, or utilities (versus 10 percent of white respondents).
  • About 9 percent of Black respondents believed their experiences seeking health care were worse than people from other races, while 19 percent of white respondents believed their experiences were better than people from other races.
  • More Black respondents (23 percent) were afraid to disclose their COVID-19 status to their friends or family than white respondents (10 percent).

 

“We know that Black Michiganders, especially early in the pandemic, suffered disproportionately from COVID-19 compared to white Michiganders in terms of infection and death,” said lead investigator Nancy Fleischer, associate professor of epidemiology at the U-M School of Public Health.

 

“What this research shows is that Black Michiganders have also had more severe illness, had worse experiences with the health care system and suffered more from the economic consequences of the pandemic than white Michiganders. We can use this information to help reduce racial disparities from the impact of COVID-19 in our state.”

 

“Since the start of the pandemic, Black and Brown communities have faced devastating and disproportionate harm,” said Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy director for health for the MDHHS. “From health to financial security, this study shows minority populations experienced more challenges than other populations.

 

“MDHHS will continue to work with partners to promote equity and eliminate these disparities in health care access and deaths.”

 

Data collection is still ongoing, and the researchers hope to include additional racial and ethnic groups in future reports.

 

Delvon Mattingly, a Ph.D. candidate studying epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Health, and the first author of the report told The Michigan Chronicle that the evidence from the report suggests that COVID-19 disproportionately affects minority groups, unsurprisingly.

Delvon Mattingly, a Ph.D. candidate studying epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Health, details how Black people are dealing with the aftereffects of COVID-19 in a recent published study. Photo provided by Delvon Mattingly

“The results cemented the idea that racial and health inequities in the U.S. are amplified via the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said, adding that one result was however a bit surprising to him. “That was that more Black responders, about 23 percent were afraid to disclose their COVID-19 status to their friends and family than about 10 percent of white responders. This could be due to an increased stigma or discrimination and perhaps Blacks are more familiar with the detriments that follow such social phenomena.”

 

Mattingly, who has seen in his own family apprehensions to disclose their COVID-19 status, said that these results only highlight racial and ethnic disparities in the U.S. that “we’ve been observing for decades.”

 

The resolution. he said, is to start by recognizing that there are disparities and work to resolve them through goal-setting and collaboration.

 

He also encourages people, especially in Black communities, to continue wearing masks, social distancing, washing hands, and using other tools to stay safe.

“Racial ethnic health inequities have existed for some time and it is evident more than ever as it’s learned how COVID-19 affects minority groups,” Mattingly said.

 

For more information on the study search Michigan COVID-19 Recovery Surveillance Study on https://umich.edu/.

 

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