“COVID-19” – a word that has become a part of our daily lexicon and will likely forge a permanent imprint on our memories in the years and decades to come. There are few things that impact every single human on this planet and this global pandemic is one of them. The magnitude of its impact, however, is not distributed equally among all segments of society. Public health emergencies such as this one highlight and expose the already existing health disparities that plague our societies. The patterns of mortality and morbidity resulting from coronavirus are consistent with the patterns observed in other chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes – a disproportionate burden on African Americans .
In Chicago, African Americans make up 30% of the population but more than 50% of COVID-19 cases and nearly 70% of COVID-19 deaths. These deaths are concentrated in just 5 neighborhoods on the city’s South Side . These patterns exist in other major cities throughout the country. In New York, one of the epicenters of the pandemic, Black and Latinx communities have experienced higher incidences of deaths from COVID-19 . The disproportionate burden of COVID-19 cannot be ignored and shines a bright light on the underlying conditions that contribute to such disparities in the first place.
The advice and guidelines surrounding this pandemic have assumed a level of privilege that cannot be practiced by all segments of the population. Individuals who have suddenly lost their jobs are experiencing an entirely different level of stress and anxiety than those whose livelihoods are not at stake. The ability to self-quarantine assumes a spare bedroom and bathroom are available to all and neglects the very real cramped conditions that exist in inner cities. The ability to experience and achieve health and well-being should be a right and not a privilege but until we acknowledge and remedy the disparities in our society, we will continue to observe greater health disparities and a disproportionate burden of disease on African Americans.
At American Muslim Health Professionals (AMHP), it is our duty and moral obligation to ensure that communication around COVID-19 and its differential impacts on different groups is clear and transparent. It is only when we acknowledge an unjust system that we are able to work towards making any lasting changes. Every human, regardless of race, status or privilege should have the opportunity to experience health and wellbeing to the best of their ability. More importantly, our firm stance against such disparities and the factors and living conditions that contribute to them must be made clear. In light of recent events, the commitment to fighting inequality, racism and the systems and structures in place that contribute to them is more urgent than ever before – both to ameliorate health disparities and to preserve the moral integrity of this nation.