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Impact of COVID-19 on the BAME communities

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Published: 12 June 2020

Public Health students at the University of Sunderland in London

Dr Patrick Igulot, Lecturer in Health and Social Care, talks about the higher rates of COVID-19 in the Black, Asian and other Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities. He discusses some of the theories that look to explain why this might be happening and how the MSc in Public Health is examining the issues behind the statistics.

Early evidence suggests that COVID-19 is affecting people from the BAME community more than any other. 

COVID-19 hospital admissions from ethnic minorities in the UK range from 16.2% to 33.3%. In the US, African-Americans alone make up 33% of all COVID hospital admissions.

The differences in the UK death rate are even more striking. Of black Africans it is 3.7 times higher, of people of Pakistani heritage it is 2.9 times higher, and of people of Bangladeshi heritage, the death rate is twice as high as that of white British people.

There are several theories that try to explain the apparently disproportionate impact of the virus among ethnic minorities. The evidence available so far points to a number of factors all of which are influenced by social inequality

Some of the factors that have been linked to higher COVID-19 death rates in BAME communities are occupational. Ethnic minorities are overrepresented in frontline jobs, for example. Others are cultural, including poorer diets, social networking and overcrowding. A deeper look into this can be found at Khunti, K. et al., 2020.

To help tackle these issues, the MSc Public Health course at the University of Sunderland in London is looking at the many ways society can impact health. We consider not only how social institutions impact ill health but also how they can contribute to improving health as well.

The programme is designed with a global outlook and a strong focus on social theory. We empower our students to use a combination of sociological and public health theories and approaches in their studies. These issues are explored with an analytical focus to give our students a well-rounded understanding of the key issues. 

Students on the MSc Public Health course use different theoretical methods to look at issues including the causes of health inequalities around the world. They’ll also have the chance to think about the effects health issues have on different levels of society.

COVID-19 has exposed a wide range of public health issues in society, both in wealthy and less-economically well-off countries. The study of public health and its uses in protecting the wellbeing of our communities and ensuring global prosperity is more important than ever before. There has never been a better time to study public health than now.

Dr Patrick Igulot is a Lecturer in Health and Social Care at the University of Sunderland in London. Visit the course page to find out more about the MSc in Public HealthFind out more by following #WeAreSunLon on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.