When It Comes to COVID-19 Risks and Outcomes, Community Health Conditions Matter

“We have all seen the devastating impact that COVID-19 has had in communities across the country. And as we’ve watched the case numbers and death toll rise, we’ve seen an unsurprising trend: The virus began to level a disproportionate blow to minority and underserved populations,” according to U.S. News.

This unsettling trend, which comes under the category of social determinants of health (SDOH), is caused by dramatic community disparities in racially-based healthcare and treatment, income, food, housing and patient age. And, simply telling ourselves that health systems need to be held accountable for improving community conditions is self-serving…a real cop-out.

Surviving COVID-19 can come down to SDOH.

Where patients live and which hospitals they were admitted to made a huge difference in what kind of care and treatment they get.

For example, The New York Times reported that, “In Queens, the New York City borough with the most COVID-19 cases and the fewest hospital beds per capita, hundreds of patients languished in understaffed wards, often unwatched by nurses or doctors. Some died after removing oxygen masks to go to the bathroom…It was another story at the private medical centers in Manhattan, which have billions of dollars in endowments and cater largely to wealthy people with insurance.”

Social determinants of health, like those shown in this example, explain why community factors matter so much in COVID-19 risks and outcomes.

The spread of COVID-19 varies greatly by zip code.

A USA TODAY analysis (shown in newspaper published on July 2, 2020) of COVID-19 infection rates at the zip code level shows how the virus has spread rapidly, but unevenly, across the U.S.

Overall, data for more than 8,500 ZIP codes – about 26% of them in the U.S. – were collected during the week of June 15 from 49 state, county and local health departments across the country that publish data at that geographic level. The analysis shows that COVID-19 is more prevalent in poorer and more crowded neighborhoods where median household income is less than $35,000. In neighborhoods with a majority of non-white residents, COVID-19 infection rates are nearly 5X higher than in areas where non-white residents are less than 10 percent.

There’s no question that SDOH influence COVID-19 risks and outcomes.

Plus, there is dramatic racial inequality to coronavirus.

After having sued the government to get access to the data, the New York Times reported (on July 5, 2020) that, “Black and Latino people have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus in a widespread manner that spans the country, throughout hundreds of counties in urban, suburban and rural areas, and across all age groups…Latino and African-American residents of the United States have been three times as likely to become infected as their white neighbors, according to the new data, which provides detailed characteristics of 640,000 infections detected in nearly 1,000 U.S. counties. And Black and Latino people have been nearly twice as likely to die from the virus as white people, the data shows.”

In the same article, Quinton Lucas, who is the third Black mayor of Kansas City, Mo., was quoted as saying, “It’s something that we’re seeing taking lives in not just urban America, but rural America, and all types of parts where, frankly, people deserve an equal opportunity to live — to get health care, to get testing, to get tracing.”

There are a number of social determinants of health.

Social determinants of health are conditions in the environments in which people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks. Some common examples of SDOH that can and do affect COVID-19 are:

  • Income level
  • Institutional racism
  • Educational opportunities
  • Occupation, employment status, and workplace safety
  • Gender inequity
  • Racial segregation
  • Food insecurity and inaccessibility of nutritious food choices
  • Access to stable housing and utility services
  • Early childhood experiences and development
  • Social support and community inclusivity
  • Aging population

How to address SDOH during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis…

You can tap into the CDC website to help your organization understand and address SDOH. The government’s CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website https://www.cdc.gov/socialdeterminants/index.htm offers resources, research, program ideas and tools for putting SDOH into action. This easy-to-understand, no-cost information is invaluable and can help practitioners take action to address SDOH.

You also can turn to Blue Eagle Consulting (BEC) NOW for your organization staffing to address SDOH concerns.

BEC can provide temporary nurses to fill in during the COVID-19 crisis, to train more effectively to meet current and rapidly increasing SDOH needs, to help you best understand your pain points and objectives, and help your organization discover appropriate and immediate staffing and training solutions in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic.

We can add resources as soon as possible. If you have current or future needs that we can help fill, simply call us at 1 (866) 981-1095 or email info@blueeagle-consulting.com