An esteemed collaboration between The University of Manchester and the University of Leicester has produced a groundbreaking paper, commissioned by the World Health Organization (WHO), that lays out strategies to address the health disparities faced by ethnic minority groups during the COVID-19 pandemic. This research, published in EClinicalMedicine, builds upon previous studies conducted by both institutions, which have already shown that ethnic minority communities bear a disproportionate burden of the virus.
The paper synthesizes all available evidence and draws upon the expertise of international specialists in the field to explain why individuals from ethnic minority backgrounds were more susceptible to infection and mortality. Researchers highlighted that these groups faced a higher risk of exposure due to their larger representation in essential worker roles, increasing their likelihood of contracting the virus. Moreover, they revealed that certain ethnic minority communities were more prone to severe outcomes after infection due to barriers that hindered their access to adequate healthcare, including delayed diagnoses and treatment stemming from job insecurity, financial constraints, and language barriers.
Furthermore, the research demonstrated that these communities also experienced social and economic consequences, such as difficulties in isolating after infection and insufficient healthcare provisions to meet their specific needs. The authors assert that ethnic minority groups were already at a disadvantage due to long-standing health inequities perpetuated by systemic racism and racial discrimination. Additionally, they argue that the factors contributing to ethnic inequities in COVID-19 infection, severe illness, and mortality are interconnected.
The paper aims to serve as a blueprint for policymakers and researchers to address these inequities and better prepare for future pandemics. It emphasizes the inadequacy of a one-size-fits-all approach and stresses the importance of overcoming cultural, social, and language barriers, alongside other socio-economic issues.
Dr. Daniel Pan, co-lead author of the paper and specialist registrar in Infectious Diseases and General Internal Medicine, as well as a National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Leicester, describes the framework as the first of its kind to specifically tackle inequities during a pandemic. He emphasizes that the recommendations aim to prevent ethnic disparities in treatment from occurring in the future. Dr. Pan further asserts that proactive measures must be taken now to mitigate the inevitable consequences that ethnic minority groups will face during the next pandemic, and believes that with careful planning, innovative approaches can overcome these challenges.
Professor Manish Pareek, senior author of the paper and an esteemed expert in Clinical Infectious Diseases at the University of Leicester, stresses that the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare and exacerbated health inequalities for ethnic minority communities. He emphasizes the importance of learning from this crisis and working in collaboration with international experts and the WHO to guide efforts in reducing the disproportionate impact on ethnic minority groups during future pandemics.