In recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, the American Medical Association (AMA) released a new report emphasizing the starkly disproportionate Latinx COVID-19 cases and fatalities—further underscoring concerns that a lack of consistent data reporting underestimates the pandemic’s magnitude on the Latinx community and illustrating how the pandemic has deepened pre-existing inequities.
The report, titled ‘Latinx COVID-19 health inequities: Insights for the health care field,’ serves as a compilation of existing data highlighting that COVID-19 cases affect Latinx individuals at nearly double the overall national rate—and calling attention to data showing that Latinx individuals are overrepresented in some state mortality rates. The report features these key statistics from public health reports:
- Latinx individuals make up 18% of the U.S. population; yet represent 33% of new COVID-19 cases.
- Latinx individuals make up roughly 19% of New York’s population; yet account for 34% of COVID-19 fatalities.
Despite these figures, and the fact that Latinx make up the largest ethnic group in the nation, the report points out that the effects of COVID-19 on this population have not been widely addressed and are largely invisible in mainstream discourse. In addition, researchers cite a lack of consistent race and ethnicity data state reporting as a barrier to capturing the real impact of the pandemic on the Latinx community. As the report notes, these elements combined leave the Latinx population inconsequential in pandemic recovery and prevention planning.
“Though COVID-19 did not create the circumstances that have led to deep-seated inequities in the Hispanic community, this report clearly highlights how the pandemic continues to exacerbate them,” said AMA President Susan R. Bailey, M.D. “The AMA remains committed to ensuring that vulnerable patients do not suffer disproportionately and to removing obstacles that stand in the way of culturally competent care for Hispanic patients.”
The report also identifies the existing drivers behind the Latinx community’s vulnerability to the pandemic. Existing structural drivers—like anti-immigration and restrictive health insurance policies—coupled with social determinants—like a lack of multilingual public health resources and limited access to digital health technologies—are major contributors to the COVID-19 health inequities experienced by the Latinx community.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has already more publicly exposed the persistent fundamental health inequities faced by Black and Brown communities, but this report uncovers just how dire the situation is in the Latinx community,” said AMA Chief Health Equity Officer and Group Vice President Aletha Maybank, M.D., M.P.H. “In this critical moment, it is imperative that we confront inequities and dismantle racism in all its forms, so that marginalized and minoritized communities like the Latinx population no longer have to bear the brunt of this public health crisis.”
Recommendations for identifying and understanding public health opportunities to serve and engage the Latinx community are presented in the report, with suggestions ranging from the creation of equitable outreach materials to the leveraging of trusted communications outlets.
Eliminating health inequities by mitigating disparity factors is a priority of the AMA’s Center for Health Equity, which works to achieve optimal health for all by providing ongoing resources, research, and education about critical health and social issues impacting minoritized and marginalized communities. Throughout Hispanic Heritage Month and beyond, the AMA has highlighted the explicit invisibility of the Latinx community in the larger context of the U.S. by discussing how COVID-19 is negatively impacting and widening the existing inequities already experienced by the Latinx community.
Other AMA resources include:
- Prioritizing Equity web series: Structural racism and the Latinx community
- AMA COVID-19 update: Disproportionate impact of COVID on Latinx community
- Prioritizing Equity web series: COVID-19 and Latinx voices in the field
The AMA continues to work on every front to support health equity through research, collaborations, advocacy, and leadership. The AMA’s policy on health equity recognizes that institutional racism and bias have contributed to inequities across the U.S. health care system for historically marginalized and minoritized communities, and aims to attain optimal health for all people.