Social Inequality Increases Impact of Covid

A new study led by University of Michigan’s Dr. Renuka Tipirneni, M.D. reveals in stark terms how the effects of COVID have hurt communities that were already struggling financially and in other measures of social stability and equitable distribution of resources.

In a comprehensive review of the impact of COVID on the population of every county in America, researchers discovered that those who had the highest level of disadvantage- in terms of education, employment, race, disability and other factors, also experienced higher COVID infection rates and death rates.

The measure of social stability is called the Social Vulnerability Index, developed by the Center for Disease Control, is a standardized measure on a ten point scale of the factors that are likely to disadvantage a group.

Interestingly, Dr. Tipirneni and the research team was able to take a look at individual factors within the Social Vulnerability Index to determine which had the most impact. The team found that communities that had higher percentages of racial and ethnic minorities and those with limited English proficiency were 22% more likely to catch COVID and 17% more likely to die from it.

University of Michigan public policy professor, Paula Lantz :

“The longstanding inequality that led to the higher social vulnerability scores in the hardest-hit counties is likely to get worse because of the pandemic,” Lantz said. “The tragic Catch-22 of the COVID-19 pandemic is that its economic and social consequences are going to further exacerbate social inequalities and community-level social vulnerability.

“Investments in public policies that protect everyone, like paid sick leave, affordable housing, high quality education and health insurance are needed to reduce the social inequalities that drive every type of health inequality, including COVID-19.”

UM News Online, Author- Kara Gavin

Those of us in the field of education know that the impact on students also will likely be felt for years to come- educationally, socially, emotionally and physically.

Remedying these inequalities will either be our generations’ greatest triumph or another step in the slide towards tragedy. This research shows that it will require a “whole-society response”, not merely each system tackling the issue in isolation.

Health, wealth, race, language, education, have always been an interwoven tapestry creating multiplicity within a self, as well as within a society- but the impact of uneven distribution is revealed by the glaring spotlight of brilliant research and compelling data.

We must not let look away.

For the full article by Kara Gavin please click here.

For more information on the Social Vulnerability Index, on the CDC website, please click here.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Why was the Social Vulnerability Index an important measure in this research?
  2. What are some demographics measured in the Social Vulnerability Index?
  3. Which demographic had the worst outcomes for COVID?
  4. Why did the researchers choose to look at county-wide data?
  5. What does professor Paula Lantz say are necessary solutions to reduce inequality?
  6. What questions would you ask the research team?

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