The most enduring images from the COVID-19-related shutdowns and quarantines are typically of empty streets, schools, and offices. Concerts and festivals have been canceled, travel has been dramatically curtailed, and for many, the world has been compressed into a computer screen. But for a large number of people in marginalized and underserved populations, the effects of the pandemic are more deeply felt. People in these groups may suffer from preexisting conditions such as chronic comorbidities,diabetes, asthma, and more. Additionally, people in these populations are often not able to access shelter to social distance themselves from others who may be exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.
To make matters worse, many hospitals and clinics in historically underinvested communities are understaffed and lack a sufficient number of ICU nurses--who are vital, considering the intensity and complexity of care required for the virus. Long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put many people from racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19; indeed, the emergence of this virus has only spotlighted how very structural and persistent these issues have been. Such experiences are common to many people within these groups, and social determinants of health have historically prevented them from having fair opportunities for economic, physical, and emotional health.
To combat the situation at hand, laboratories and companies have created (and continue to research) effective vaccines as quickly as possible. Certain patients who have the virus are at risk of progressing into acute respiratory failure from mild symptoms at a speed that has surprised scientists and medical professionals alike. Additionally, the virus takes its toll on the older population at a higher rate, leaving less scope for improvement. But apart from age, the next factor that determines the effect of the virus is race; genetics play a very marginal role here, with deep-rooted inequities in healthcare acting as a determinative force in matters of life and death.
This is why it has become increasingly paramount that a diverse and representative pool of patient-participants are included in vaccine and therapeutic research efforts. According to Staci Hargraves, Vice President of Janssen Pharmaceuticals, taking such a step would aid in reducing disparities in clinical research which aims to create solutions for the pandemic. Research has shown that reasons why lower-income people and people of color participate less in clinical trials are similar to why COVID-19 is hitting them harder than other populations: access, (justified) mistrust, and a host of other structural issues.
If there is ever going to be a perfect time for society to make a commitment to address the disparities in social determinants of health, it is now. While COVID-19 has made a huge impact on everyone’s lives (especially healthcare professionals), COVID-19 has been an eye-opener in revealing the magnitude and depth of these effects in vulnerable populations. Whether it be the inability to shelter in place or having limited access to quality health care and clinical trials, it is clear that for some, the fight against COVID-19 is not a fair fight.
If you’re interested in learning more about COVID-19 Dashboards, please feel free to reach out to Anish Nagar (email: anishnagar [at] corecentra.com). Anish is the CEO of Corecentra Solutions, a software company providing purpose-built digital solutions for socially conscious and outcomes-focused companies, foundations, nonprofits, and frontline government agencies.
Corecentra provides advanced digital tools for organizations to manage, monitor, and report their social performance and impact. We help socially-conscious companies, impact investors, foundations, nonprofits, and frontline government agencies manage portfolios and programs, aggregate and analyze data, and easily report outcomes to key stakeholders. By seamlessly integrating program management, budgeting & finance, stakeholder engagement, predictive analytics, and impact assessment, our products empower organizations to increase their social impact and deliver a quantified view of social performance to investors, donors, beneficiaries, employees, and communities.