Brunswick recently invited two experts—one on public health, the other on inclusive development—to share their insights.
As part of an ongoing effort to bring colleagues together to foster open conversations, Brunswick’s Inclusion & Diversity Committee organized a webinar on the effects coronavirus is having on vulnerable groups including women and communities of color. Experts speaking on that subject were Dr. April Clark, Senior Epidemiologist for BP, and Ms. Peggy Davis, Vice President of Community Impact from The Chicago Community Trust.
The webinar, held on June 3rd, was led by Brunswick’s Head of New York office, Maria Figueroa Küpçü, and April McFadden, an executive based in Chicago. Brunswick colleagues from around the US listened in and posed questions to Dr. Clark and Ms. Davis.
The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Maria Figueroa Küpçü: When we envisioned this conversation several weeks ago, we were well aware that the pandemic was exposing inequities and racism. But the death of George Floyd, and the ensuing protests over racial injustice, have added greater urgency to those issues. We’re having this conversation mindful of how they overlap and reinforce one another.
We’re talking to two people who are seeing this play out on the front lines, and who have been focused on this issue for quite some time. We know that the pandemic has been felt hardest in communities of color, among women, among people with lower levels of education. Sixty-one percent of Hispanic Americans say that they or someone in their household has directly experienced the job loss or wage reduction because of COVID-19; that goes for 44 percent of Black Americans and 38 percent of white Americans. A note that I read, actually, from The Chicago Community Trust—Peggy’s organization—was that George Floyd was, himself, out of work because of COVID-19.
We’re only starting to understand the magnitude of the impact of the experience that we have all been going through: how it has affected our health—both physical and mental—our economy; our cultural and democratic institutions. But whatever those are, they have been magnified in low-income communities.
That’s where our conversation today is focused: the community level. Because that’s where it’s happening, and that’s where systemic change will start. I think it’s important to begin that conversation by understanding the facts on the ground. Dr. Clark, from a public-health angle, can you tell us what you’re seeing?
Dr. April Clark: I’m sure everyone has been seeing the disturbing headlines about the experiences that minority communities are having with COVID-19. To cover some of the public-health literature and data that I review for BP, we can see that Black people and Hispanic people are being hospitalized more frequently and have higher mortality rates.
There have been various studies where we see that, even in younger age groups, there are more hospitalizations in those minority communities. If we look at children, Hispanic children are more likely to be hospitalized than white children. When we get into the higher age groups, 18 to 49, we see that Black people are more than twice as likely to be hospitalized. Early data from China suggested that older people were more at risk for contracting COVID-19 and being hospitalized. But here, we see that disparity is happening in a much younger population, which is extremely concerning.
When we look at who’s dying from the disease, we see that Black people are dying at twice the rate as white people. And it’s not just in that older population.
We are still behind in the US with collecting this type of data. From an epidemiological perspective, this is disturbing because we don’t know the full extent of this disease. And collecting that data is necessary to understand how this disease is impacting these communities. One of the risks associated with the disease would be co-morbidities. We know minorities are at greater risk for hypertension and heart disease. But again, that data aren’t being recorded.
Of course, this is a pandemic. All hands were on deck quickly. But now it’s time to gather that data, understand it, and make sure we’re acting on it.