BIPOC Experience More Negative Effects After COVID-19 Infection

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A new study found that Hispanic patients were more likely to report fair or poor health and reduced activity compared to non-Hispanic patients at 3 months.

Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) experience more negative effects in health and work after being infected with COVID-19 compared to White individuals who were similarly infected, according to new research published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health.1

Many health disparities were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly for ethnic and racial minoritized populations. Due to an overrepresentation in the essential workforce, these populations were at an increased risk for infection. While this has been demonstrated by previous research, not much is known about disparities in recovery after COVID-19.

“We want to understand what is driving these differences, with the goal of advancing health equity after infection,” Kelli O’Laughlin, lead author on the study and associate professor of emergency medicine and of global health at the University of Washington School of Medicine, said in a release.2

Investigators from the Innovative Support for Patients with SARS-CoV-2 Infections (INSPIRE) group, a collaboration between 8 major academic medical centers in the United States funded by the CDC, conducted a study to examine the ethnic and racial differences in symptoms and health-related impacts 3 and 6 months after the first SARS-CoV-2 infection.

The study cohort included 3161 participants, of which 2402 were COVID-19-positive and 759 were negative, who were enrolled in the INSPIRE study between December 11, 2020, and July 4, 2022. Individual symptoms, health status, activity level, and missed work 3 and 6 months after COVID-19 illness were assessed.

Investigators found that Hispanic patients were more likely to report fair or poor health and reduced activity compared to non-Hispanic patients at 3 months. However, the differences were not present at 6 months. Other/multiple race patients were also more likely to report fair or poor health and reduced activity compared to White participants at 3 months.

Additionally, compared to White patients at 6 months, Black patients reported missing more work, Asian patients were more likely to report fair or poor health, and other/multiple race patients were more likely to report fair or poor health, reduced activity, and more missed work.

Study limitations included small sample sizes of different ethnic and racial subgroups, lack of data on insurance and frontline worker status, that individuals who agreed to participate may not have been representative of their larger ethnic and racial subgroup, and that important neurological and mental health sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 were not evaluated.

“We must understand what is driving these differences in order to advance health equity after infection,” Joann Elmore, principal investigator of the UCLA INSPIRE study site, said in a release.3 “Several minority populations reported worse overall health, lower activity levels, or more missed work months after infection. While we can’t pinpoint the cause, we know that, historically, these populations may have a harder time accessing health care, which could complicate their recovery.”

References
1. O’Laughlin KN, Klabbers RE, Ebna Mannan I, et al. Ethnic and racial differences in self-reported symptoms, health status, activity level, and missed work at 3 and 6 months following SARS-CoV-2 infection. Front. Public Health. 11:1324636. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2023.1324636
2. BIPOC individuals bear greater post-COVID burdens. News Release. UW Medicine. January 30, 2024. Accessed February 1, 2024. https://newsroom.uw.edu/news-releases/bipoc-individuals-bear-greater-post-covid-burdens
3. BIPOC individuals bear greater post-COVID health burdens, new research suggests. News Release. UCLA Health. January 31, 2024. Accessed February 1, 2024. https://www.uclahealth.org/news/bipoc-individuals-bear-greater-post-covid-health-burdens-new
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