December 17, 2020

By Kimberlee Buck Hayes

Contributing Writer


It’s no secret that Blacks are at a higher risk of combating illnesses like diabetes, asthma, heart disease, stroke, cancer, the flu, and pneumonia compared to Whites. The truth is, the Black community is living with diseases that are typically more common for other races at older ages.

As the country prepares for the third wave of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, research reveals that Blacks are once again suffering from another disease at an all-time high.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “African Americans are experiencing 2.6 times higher cases, 4.7 times higher hospitalization rates, and 2.1 times more death from COVID-19 compared to White counterparts.”

So, the question remains, why are African Americans forced to battle deadly diseases like COVID-19? The answer is simple, discrimination.

In an internal special topic report, titled, “COVID-19 Disparities Among African Americans and their Possible Solutions,” the CDC noted “Historical and contemporary policies can perpetuate inequalities in access to health promoting resources among racial and ethnic minority groups.”


The report goes on to say, “Unfortunately discrimination, which includes racism, exists in systems meant to protect well-being or health. Discrimination can lead to chronic and toxic stress and shapes social and economic factors that put some people from racial and ethnic minority groups at [an] increased risk of COVID-19.”

In the nine-page document, researchers identify the top five underlying determinants that place African Americans at a higher risk: the racial wealth gap, housing and living conditions, increased occupational risk, health insurance coverage, and increased prevalence of chronic medical conditions.

The racial wealth gap focuses less on income, and more on wealth which can be acquired through generations. Those who are wealthy are more likely to have access to health resources and are able to seek immediate medical care.

“Unlike income, wealth can be accumulated and passed down through generations. A 2017 study estimated 60 percent of wealth held in the U.S. was inherited, rather than produced through income by the current generation,” read the CDC report.

The road blocks standing in the way of Black wealth date back to slavery and segregation.

 As stated in the report, “Efforts by African American persons to build wealth have been impeded across generation through slavery, segregation, and contemporary systemic inequalities in homeownership, ­education, and income.”

Housing and Living Conditions

The spread of COVID-19 can also be related to the number of people living in one household and crowded neighborhoods. The CDC stated, 53 percent of African Americans have two generations in one household.

“Although multigenerational housing has economic and social benefits, higher level of crowding contributes to an elevated risk of household and community transmission,” read the report.

Increased Occupational Risk

Throughout the pandemic, people who held essential jobs, continued working while many Americans were laid off forced to seek unemployment.

According to the report, Blacks are more likely to work essential jobs and less likely to stop working, which could increase their risk of COVID-19 exposure.

“African American persons also had lower access to paid sick leave and the ability to telework, increasing the chance of SARS-CoV-2 occupational transmission,” said the CDC.

Health Insurance Coverage

In 2018, 11.5 percent of African Americans were uninsured in comparison to 6.8 percent of Whites. Minority groups who are less likely to have health insurance are unable to manage health conditions or seek a diagnosis for chronic illnesses.

Increased Prevalence of Chronic Medical Conditions

Early on, news reports warned those who had preexisting medical conditions of the virus. This statement remains true, especially for minority groups. For African Americans, a preexisting medical condition increases their chances of hospitalization and death.

“As detailed in the Institute of Medicine report, Unequal Treatment, African American persons and other racial/ethnic minority groups may receive unequal treatment by healthcare providers for many diseases,” said the CDC.

“African American persons also have higher distrust of the healthcare system in part due to current and historical mistreatment ranging from coercion to medical experimentation.”

The report goes on to explain that Blacks are more likely to trust African American medical providers, however, this racial group is still underrepresented in the medical field.

Where do we go from here? The CDC report states additional research is needed to reduce the risk of COVID-19 and improve access to testing, early recognition and management of other chronic illnesses.

To read the full report visit

Category: Health