health disparities

CT Leaders Discuss Health Disparities Among Minorities

African Americans make up 12% of the Connecticut population while Hispanics make up nearly 17% yet, according to state health officials, the two groups have the two highest COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inside the state.

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As the death toll from the coronavirus surpasses 100,000 in the United States, there is an effort inside the state to bring awareness to some of the health disparities in communities of color. According to medical experts, minorities have been some of the hardest hit.

One of the issues being brought to the forefront is underlying health conditions.

"Many people are living with chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure that make them more vulnerable to this virus," said Congresswoman Jahana Hayes. "Persons of color and specifically African American's and Latinos we're disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and the COVID-related illnesses."

Access to health care is another issue plaguing African Americans, Hispanics, and immigrants.

"There are a lot of people who don't have health insurance which puts not only themselves at risk by their families, too," said Dr. Julia Rosenberg, pediatrician for Yale-New Haven. "Many patients have underlying health conditions and they don't have the means to see a doctor to help treat the underlying health conditions."

African Americans make up 12% of the Connecticut population while Hispanics make up nearly 17% yet, according to the Connecticut Department of Public Health, the two groups have the two highest COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inside the state.

There are more than 7,311 Hispanics and 5,249 African Americans cases inside the state and 557 African Americans and 327 Hispanics have died from COVID19.

Jaidy Gonzalez is one of the many people calling on Gov. Ned Lamont to expand the CT Husky program. The initiative works to provide access to health care for those who need it.

"A lot of families have tried home remedies instead of seeking medical assistance when their feeling sick," said Gonzalez. "I know I'm not the only one out there experiencing this, there are a lot more people who have trouble accessing health care."

According to APM Research Lab, Color of Coronavirus, 1 in 1,850 black Americans have died and 1 in 4,000 Latino Americans have died. The study also found that African Americans represent 13% of the U.S. population but have suffered 25% of deaths.

A contributing factor to the health disparities is due to many minorities still working during the pandemic.

Unemployment rates include: Hispanic or Latino (18.9%), African American (16.7%), Asian (14.5%), and White (14.2%).

The state has ramped up testing and contact tracing but some Connecticut leaders believe more work needs to be done.

"The idea that we're going to take a pause or now is not the time to consider legislation, tell that to the families of the 100,000 people who have perished as a result of this disease," said Congresswoman Jahana Hayes (D). "There is something structurally wrong when many essential workers are having to either risk their health or pass on their income."

The pandemic is shedding light on health disparities in African American and Hispanic communities.

"This pandemic has pegged the question of 'why are people in minority communities disproportionally suffering from diabetes and asthma and high blood pressure?' and as a result left them vulnerable," said Congresswoman Hayes. "We have to make sure we are educating our youth about healthy and nutritious food and provide these communities with access to fruits and vegetables and healthy options."

Dr. Julia Rosenberg mentions that some minorities don't have the option of following the guidelines set in place by the state and federal agencies.

"The ability to socially distance or have personal protective equipment cost money and many people don't have the means to stop working," said Dr. Rosenberg.

In New Haven, the city is trying to get the word out about the need for testing and what needs to happen in order to help minorities.

"We have our mobile vans going to each and everyone one of these communities where people may not have access to testing," Lamont said.

Connecticut leaders tell NBC Connecticut that more funding and help from the federal government is necessary to help minorities through the pandemic.

"This is a failure at the federal level and we're seeing in real-time right now," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D). "The Senate needs to be working with the House of Representatives to pass legislation like the Public Health Act."

Hayes along with other members of the House of Representatives presented the Public Health Act to cut down on the health disparities.

"It should not matter if you are a Democrat or a Republican when dealing with this health crisis," said Hayes. "Our jobs as legislators is to take that information and rely on the facts and try to assist people to make their lives better.

The full recording of a roundtable discussing the expansion of Connecticut's HUSKY program to undocumented immigrants. Recorded on May 21.
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