COVID-19 has widened health disparities in jobs and food – Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis

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Study of St. Louis County residents says black women suffered the most

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Several studies on COVID-19 have revealed gaping disparities in the United States that negatively affect the health of non-white people, especially non-white women. A deep dive by researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the university’s Brown School shows that in St. Louis County, black women suffered at disproportionately higher rates than men and people of other racial and ethnic backgrounds at the height of the pandemic.

In a study recently published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers found that between August 2020 and October 2020, black women in St. Louis County were most at risk of job loss and job loss. food insecurity relative to black men, white women, and white men. Previous studies on COVID-19 have mainly focused on comparisons between different racial identities or between men and women.

Focusing on more than one social identity – in this study, race and gender – is known as intersectional analysis. This approach provided researchers with a more comprehensive analysis of who was most affected by the pandemic, “and we found that black women were profoundly affected more than other groups,” said Kia Davis, ScD, assistant professor at the ‘Medicine School. Division of Public Health Sciences and lead author of the study published in the CDC journal Preventing Chronic Disease. “This study is not only an acknowledgment of significant inequalities, but can help us better defend those who are most harmed should similar scenarios occur in the future.”

Davis said the research team was looking to “dig deeper than just saying that women suffered more job losses than men, or that black people suffered more food insecurity than white people.” Data disaggregation allows us to use findings to guide health and social care programs, interventions, and policies to mitigate the disproportionate effects of COVID-19 and related social harms on Black women. .

Job loss and food insecurity are recognized as major social determinants of health, defined as social and economic circumstances that influence individual health. Examples of job loss include furloughs, layoffs, and reduced wages; food insecurity refers to the quality and quantity of food eaten, caring about food, and receiving free meals or groceries.

Over the years, several studies have documented the link between job loss and job insecurity as both separate and combined factors contributing to adverse health outcomes, including an increased risk of death and disease such as drug addiction, suicide, depression and anxiety, substandard physical health, and chronic disease.

“Historically, African Americans and women are most impacted by the social determinants of health due to systemic racism and sexism,” Davis said. “Our study shows that COVID-19 has widened existing gender and racial disparities that can affect health.”

The researchers analyzed anonymized data from 2,146 adults aged 18 or older who resided in St. Louis County, Missouri. The individuals were contacted by telephone by county public health officials through a collaboration between St. Louis County and the Washington University Institute of Public Health. Participants were asked a series of questions about their experiences with jobs and food during the pandemic.

Overall, the researchers found that black women experienced more job loss and food insecurity than black men, white women, and white men, with the largest gaps occurring between black women and white men.

Among study participants who had been laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 16% were black women compared to 7.1% black men, 8.6% white women, and 6.1% d white men.

When it came to food insecurity, 79.6% of white men never worried about going without food, compared to 75.8% of white women, 72.6% of black men, and 57.6% of black women.

“I wasn’t surprised that black women faced greater harm, but I was surprised by the magnitude,” said study first author Jacquelyn Coats, a PhD student at the Brown School. . “These findings underscore the need for increased community outreach programs and greater structural changes, such as labor laws that provide better worker protections.”

Coats JV, Humble S, Johnson KJ, Pedamallu H, Drake BF, Geng E, Goss CW, Davis KL. Job Loss and Food Insecurity—Racial and Gender Disparities in the Context of COVID-19. Prevention of chronic diseases. Published online in the August 2022 issue.

This work was supported by the St. Louis County Department of Public Health through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act of 2020.

About Washington University School of Medicine

WashU Medicine is a world leader in academic medicine, including biomedical research, patient care, and educational programs with 2,700 faculty. Its National Institutes of Health (NIH) research funding portfolio is the fourth largest among U.S. medical schools, has grown 54% over the past five years, and with institutional investment, WashU Medicine is spending more a billion dollars a year for basic and clinical research. innovation and training. Its faculty practice is consistently ranked among the top five in the nation, with more than 1,790 faculty physicians practicing at more than 60 sites who also serve on the medical staff of BJC HealthCare’s Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s Hospitals. WashU Medicine has a rich history of MD/PhD training, recently dedicated $100 million in scholarships and curriculum renewal for its medical students, and is home to top-notch training programs in every medical subspecialty as well as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and audiology and communication sciences.

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