This micro briefing is an introduction to the key evidence concerning the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 among Black and minority ethnic groups.
This is the third in a series of COVID-19 micro briefings developed by the Glasgow Centre for Population Health and Policy Scotland and written in collaboration with expert partner agencies.
Black and minority ethnic (BME) populations, have experienced entrenched health inequalities for decades. In terms of global public health, the COVID-19 pandemic has become another means of perpetuating and worsening health inequalities among BME groups. Evidence from England makes clear that BME populations have experienced among the highest COVID-19 infection and death rates and are at significantly higher risk of requiring intensive hospital treatment than white people. Within Scotland, incomplete ethnicity health data inhibits robust analysis of COVID-19 outcomes. Taking these limitations into account, Public Health Scotland recently reported significantly increased COVID-19 hospital admissions and deaths among BME populations compared to white Scottish people. There is growing consensus that the fundamental cause of these adverse pandemic outcomes for BME groups is rooted in longstanding, pre-existing socioeconomic and health inequalities, including those driven by discrimination and racism.
The introduction to the briefing contains key points and a figure summary of the key concepts of the evidence reviewed. Thereafter, the briefing covers these points in more detail and is structured in three sections:
- Disproportionate effects of COVID-19 on BME populations.
- Pre-existing inequalities as a driver of ethnic disparity in COVID-19 outcomes.
- Racism and discrimination – the ‘causes of the causes’ of BME health inequalities, including COVID-19.
- BME populations have experienced among the highest COVID-19 infection and death rates alongside other disproportionate social impacts. Evidence from global perspectives and from other parts of the UK make clear that the undue pandemic impacts on BME populations relate to pre-existing inequalities in health, employment, income, opportunity and access to health services. Much of these pre-existing inequalities are driven by discrimination and racism.
- Within Scotland improvements are needed in ethnicity data quality in order to accurately assess the impacts of COVID-19 on BME populations.
- Dismantling racism is essential to achieving health equity. Racism is a fundamental determinant of health and a systemic problem which demands structural interventions and reforms. Failure to do so will hinder equitable pandemic recovery efforts and will exacerbate the health and social inequalities evidenced among some BME communities.
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About the authors
This micro briefing has been written with the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights (CRER). CRER works to eliminate racial discrimination and promote racial justice across Scotland. Through capacity building, research and campaigning activities which respond to the needs of communities, CRER’s work takes a strategic approach to tackling deep rooted issues of racial inequality. More information on CRER’s work to build the evidence base on racial inequality, including socioeconomic inequality, is on the CRER website.