Social Class And Race Affected By Covid 19
Vannessa Nneka Orakue 10121633Alexander College (Sociology)200 and SociologyEmily Cheung
Health equity refers to a situation where all members of society can access safe, effective, and reliable health services. However, certain circumstances limit the achievement of this objective, prompting stakeholders in the sector to formulate policies aimed at promoting healthcare access to all individuals regardless of diversity. The segregation in the access to healthcare services is more evident from the Covid-19 pandemic, whereby the pandemic brought both social and racial injustices in the broader public health sector. The Covid-pandemic unequally affected individuals limiting their access to consultation services, immunization, and monitoring capabilities. Racial groups affected by the pandemic mainly include people of color who are often discriminated against and prevented from accessing safe and effective healthcare services. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020), approximately 4.3 million patients from African, Asian American, and Hispanic backgrounds had a higher prevalence of Covid-19, with even higher admissions and reported deaths.
On the other hand, discrimination based on social class essentially entails the treatment costs involved in the management of the virus, whereby individuals from low-income backgrounds reported higher positivity rates, admissions, and even deaths than individuals from high-income backgrounds. Additionally, social class discrimination in the pandemic management also revolves around the social determinants of health, particularly the available conditions where people work, live, and learn and associated health risks. Previous studies associate unfavorable working conditions such as poor ventilation and overcrowding with increased contraction of the virus, increasing the positivity rate among individuals from these backgrounds. Further analysis of the social class and race affected by Covid-19 focuses on the factors leading to this inequity, such as healthcare access, occupation, education and wealth gaps, and housing.
The theoretical framework utilized in the research is discrimination and underlying motivation, with a significant emphasis on the psychoanalytic theory. According to Carveth (2018), bias refers to a behavior or action directed towards a specific individual or population group that consequently affects their behavior towards other individuals. Discrimination can either be verbal or nonverbal and can be triggered by facilitated through – negative messages, racist nicknames, cyber bullying, and threats. The Psychoanalytic theory emphasizes that individuals tend to behave abnormally towards minority groups attributed to social and individual differences. According to the idea, anxiety increases, thus resulting in some individuals being labeled as “bad” or “unworthy” in society. Applying the Psychoanalytic theory in analyzing social class and race affected by Covid-19 reveals that the pandemic adversely affected certain population groups, especially those from racial, marginalized, and ethnic communities (Carveth, 2018).
Additionally, the pandemic has exposed inequalities in crucial sectors of economic, social, and political lives. Furthermore, various provisions of the theory suggest the capability of adverse consequences towards the discriminated individual or population group. Similarly, racial and socioeconomic status disparities in health are prominent and directly associated with increased mortality and morbidity rates. Minority groups affected by the pandemic, primarily Black and from low-income backgrounds, registered a higher prevalence than whites and individuals from high-income backgrounds. Moreover, the population group recorded higher positivity rates with higher mortality rates. This increased anxiety, making the individuals labeled as “weak” and “unhealthy.”
Understanding the factors that affect access and the provision of healthcare services is crucial to appropriately addressing the healthcare needs of diverse population groups. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), social class and race affected by Covid-19 mainly revolve around healthcare access, occupation, education, wealth gaps, and housing (Bajos et al., 2021). Based on healthcare access, individuals from racial and ethnic minority groups are limited in the access to healthcare services, attributed to various issues such as poor transportation, lack of health insurance, and limited time to consult with healthcare providers. Additionally, cultural differences make it difficult for effective communication between the patients and healthcare providers, limiting access to care. In the same manner, individuals from African and Hispanic backgrounds were primarily limited in accessing healthcare information about the pandemic and the access to treatment and management of the virus. Previous studies also reveal that most individuals from these population groups mistrust the healthcare system and the government, attributed to the inequalities in treatment options, where individuals are believed to be immunized and sterilized without their consent. Another factor leading to the health inequality among the social class and race affected by Covid-19 is occupation. Individuals from minority groups and low-income backgrounds work in essential working stations, such as factories and the public transportation sector. The workstations are characterized by unfavorable conditions such as poor ventilation and overcrowding, which increase their chances of contracting the virus (Magesh et al., 2021). Essential workers were at a higher risk of exposure attributed to their crucial role in ensuring the continuity of critical functions within the public sector.
Access to education is another crucial factor that largely influences access, provision, and monitoring healthcare services. Additionally, education is essential in ensuring that patients and healthcare providers can effectively communicate, thus facilitating the processes of diagnosis, medication, and treatment. Generally, low-income individuals from minority and ethnic groups have less access to high-quality education than individuals from high and majority population groups. With low-quality education, the individuals had limited access to information sources, making them less knowledgeable about the information on the pandemic, such as contracting, symptoms, and treatment (Khanijahani et al., 2021). Additionally, with limited education and access to information, the individuals could not communicate about the symptoms, thus increasing transmission rates. Wealth gaps as another factor influencing social class and race affected by Covid-19 revolve around the need to improve livelihoods among the population groups. Individuals from low-income backgrounds and minority ethnic groups continued to work, despite the danger of exposure, to provide essential living needs. Lastly, housing is another crucial factor that can explain social class and race affected by Covid-19. Safe, ventilated, and clean spaces are widely recommended as healthy living conditions with minimal exposure to infections and diseases (Demirtaş-Madran, 2020). However, individuals from low-income backgrounds and minority ethnic groups live in crowded conditions, increasing their exposure and risk to infections. Previous studies reveal that a higher percentage of individuals from African and Hispanic backgrounds live in overcrowded housing facilities that may have increased their exposure to the virus.
The methodology utilized in the study is a four-step flowchart that explains the exposure of the Covid-19 at the micro, meso, and macro levels. Additionally, the exposure is associated with belonging to either racial, ethnic minority, or socioeconomic status (SES) populations.
Figure 1 Framework showing types and definitions of exposure
Information on the framework defines an ethnic minority as a group of individuals with different racial, cultural, and nationality backgrounds. The groups are also distinct, based on other broader political and economic factors. On the other hand, low socioeconomic status (SES) individuals are characterized by less access to education, low income, and living in unfavorable housing conditions (Khanijahani et al., 2021). Micro-level factors based on the framework entail the variables used to define the minority and racial groups. They include Hispanic, American Indian, Asian, and Black African Americans, who are believed to have had a higher prevalence of the Covid-19 virus than individuals from other majority ethnic groups. As indicated in the framework, Meso levels factors include all elements used to classify individuals as having a low socioeconomic status (SES). Education, employment, income, language, insurance, housing conditions, poverty level, and urban/rural residence. These factors are viable to determine the ability of an individual to access healthcare services and their access to crucial information on the pandemic. Finally, the macro-level factors in the framework entail all outcomes of the Covid-19 pandemic associated with both the micro and meso level factors. The preliminary results directly related to the population groups identified and the influence of the socioeconomic status (SES) elements include – deaths, Covid-19 hospitalization and infections, increased rate of ICU admissions for Covid-19, diagnosis, and access to testing for Covid-19.
Despite the inconsistencies observed in most studies about the Covid-19 pandemic, it is clear that racial and ethnic minority groups registered higher risks of Covid-19 infection, hospitalization, diagnosis, and mortality. Increased exposure and contracting of the virus among the population groups are associated with various factors that can be mainly categorized into social inequalities. Significant factors identified to increase the prevalence among these population groups include – poverty, less access to education, poor housing conditions, and low incomes. Other factors include language barriers that increase cultural differences among the groups and household overcrowding that tend to increase the exposure. Nevertheless, some ethnic groups are at higher risk of exposure to the virus than others. Findings from the study reveal that individuals from Hispanic, African American, and Asian American ethnic backgrounds were at a higher risk of exposure and contracting Covid-19 with higher admissions and positivity rates than the White individuals.
Additionally, decreased access to care among the population groups was directly associated with increased positivity and mortality rates. Compared to the whites, the minority population groups identified also experienced challenges about the lack of insurance, unemployment, the need to reduce the wealth gap, ICU admission, and access to testing and vaccination. Results obtained call for the implementation of effective policies aimed at providing healthcare access across diverse population groups. Additionally, identifying the principal factors resulting in health inequality calls for the performance of measures intended to reduce the inequalities related to Covid-19. Future studies ought to focus on the role of stakeholders in the sector, such as the government and healthcare professionals, in reducing the inequalities while ensuring that individuals from minority groups have equal access to healthcare services just like the white individuals. Nevertheless, future studies should focus on imparting advanced knowledge regarding providing care to diverse individuals, particularly those from minority groups, to ensure that the individuals are adequately informed on preventive measures to reduce the prevalence of future pandemics. The education should also focus on access to affordable, safe, and reliable healthcare services among the population groups, aligned to the provision of the public health sector.
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