A new study has found that the Covid-19 pandemic has widened existing health inequalities amongst ethnic minorities with diabetes.
The research was conducted by academics from the University of Leicester as well as researchers from the National Institute for Health and Care Research’s Applied Research Collaboration East Midlands (NIHR ARC East Midlands) division.
They study investigated the larger structural obstacles that put ethnic minorities with diabetes at a bigger risk of more extreme Covid-19 outcomes.
The researchers discovered that the barriers for ethnic minorities include:
- Neighborhood resources
- Employment opportunities
These structural hurdles are important factors that impact the health of people with diabetes or Covid-19 – especially those in high-risk ethnic minorities groups.
The report found that people from ethnic minority groups also experience more severe Covid-19 reactions due to their differences in co-morbid conditions, access to treatment and exposure risk. Typically, the access to treatment has been informed by minority patients registering higher dissatisfaction with accessing health services.
Previous research papers have failed to consider these wider structural issues. Researchers from the University of Leicester are now calling on healthcare services to address the disproportionate impact people from minority ethnic groups have experienced during the pandemic due to these health disparities.
Professor Kamlesh Khunti CBE, Director of NIHR ARC East Midlands and Professor of Primary Care Diabetes and Vascular Medicine at the University of Leicester, lead author of the review, said: “Diabetes is a risk factor for severe Covid-19, and the combination of these ethnic disparities may have contributed to the inequality of coronavirus outcomes for those living with the condition.
“As we now plan for recovery, improved surveillance, and risk factor management, it will be imperative that primary and specialist care services urgently focus on the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on ethnic minority populations.”
“Only by taking a long-term, holistic view of health care will we, and particularly our most vulnerable populations, be able to cope better with future pandemics.”
NIHR ARC East Midlands is hosted by Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and works in collaboration with the East Midlands Academic Health Science Network.
The Government and the Department of Health have accepted the pandemic had disproportionate health impacts on ethnic minority communities. In December last year, the Government published the ‘final report on progress to address Covid-19 health inequalities. However, critics have argued their policy hasn’t gone far enough in addressing the known determinants of health that disproportionately affect these communities.
The Government have also seen backlash from £100 million funding cuts to obesity services earlier this year. The spending cuts were a U-turn on previous plans to address the public health crisis in obesity, which implicates ethnic minority groups in particular.
The new study, whilst welcomed in the fight to address health inequalities, doesn’t tell us anything new. The health inequalities that exist in the UK are at significant levels, spanning across social, ethnic and regional groups. With differences in life expectancy and quality of life between ethnic groups, the Government must incorporate the wider determinants of health in tackling such health issues.
Given the announcement of reduced funding to obesity services, and the tax-cut plans heralded in the Conservative leadership race – it doesn’t look like the Government is going to take implementable steps to reduce such health inequalities any time soon.
Reducing health inequalities is a primary focus of Curia’s NHS Innovation and Life Sciences Commission. For further information, please see our website and watch our last session on Integration with Dr Claire Fuller and Richard Murray.