Ann McGauran 17 June 2020

Racism raises the risk from COVID-19 for minorities

Racism has raised the risk of people from black and ethnic minority communities developing COVID-19 and dying from the disease, says an official report.

The new report from Public Health England (PHE) contains recommendations missing from an earlier version, alongside an acknowledgement of the contribution made by the PHE’s national director for health and wellbeing Professor Kevin Fenton. Professor Fenton had been asked by PHE to engage with the BAME community on its behalf to hear their views on the impact of COVID-19 on their communities.

The report's recommendations include calls for mandatory comprehensive and quality ethnicity data collection and recording, support for community participatory research, and improved access, experiences and outcomes of NHS, local government and integrated care systems commissioned services.

It also recommends the acceleration of culturally competent occupational risk assessment tools, COVID-19 education and prevention campaigns and health promotion and disease prevention programmes, and ensuring that COVID-19 recovery strategies actively reduce inequalities caused by the wider determinants of health to create ‘long term sustainable change’.

Responding to the report, BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘Now that the second report with recommendations has been fully published we must see urgent and tangible action’.

He added: ‘The Government, who commissioned this review must now produce a clear action plan with timescales of how these recommendations will be implemented.’

Chief executive of Calderdale MBC and joint policy lead on community wellbeing for Solace Robin Tuddenham said he had been in the reference group that ‘had a couple of conversations alongside some other people with Professor Fenton’.

In a letter to council staff following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Mr Tuddenham said the original report from PHE ‘lacked recommendations, or reference to what we know and understand to be the impact of structural and systemic racism, which as Sir Michael Marmot argues, is the underlying factor leading to health inequalities and lessened life chances for black and Asian communities’.

He added: ‘I said in my letter it was very disappointing that for whatever reason there were no recommendations (in the original report).’

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