Study examines racial/ethnic disparities in exposure to COVID-19

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers have noted a disproportionate burden of COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, and death among Black and Hispanic individuals in the United States. In March 2020, the CDC reported that twice as many Black individuals were hospitalized with COVID-19 than were proportionally represented in the U.S. These disparities may be attributed to long-standing health and social inequities.

To examine the influence of racial and ethnic differences in socioeconomic position on COVID-19 outcomes within a large U.S. national cohort, a team of CUNY SPH researchers including Institute for Implementation Science in Population Health (ISPH) Investigator McKaylee Robertson and Distinguished Professor and ISPH Executive Director Denis Nash led a study published this month as a preprint in medRxiv.

The researchers created three indices to assess socioeconomic position: ability to social distance as a measure of exposure to COVID-19, susceptibility to severe COVID-19, and healthcare access. The findings suggest that non-white participants have more exposure risk and more difficulty with healthcare access than white participants. More exposure risk increased the odds of COVID-19 seroconversion. More underlying susceptibility and more difficulty with healthcare access increased the odds of hospitalization.

“This may explain the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 infections and complications among these populations,” said Robertson, the study’s lead author. “Prevention efforts should take into consideration disparities in COVID-19 exposure, vaccination, and treatment.”

This research builds on the authors’ earlier work with the CHASING COVID Cohort Study that showed persistent racial/ethnic disparities in seroconversion risk as well as elevated risk among essential workers.

Robertson MR, Shamsunder M, Brazier E, Mantravadi M, Rane MS, Westmoreland DA, Parcesepe AM, Zimba R, Maroko AR, Kulkarni SG, Grov C, and Nash D. Racial/ethnic disparities in exposure to COVID-19, susceptibility to COVID-19 and access to health care – findings from a U.S. national cohort. medRxiv 2022.01.11.22269101