Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Ethnic and racial disparities in COVID-19-related deaths: counting the trees, hiding the forest
  1. Sanni Yaya1,2,
  2. Helena Yeboah1,
  3. Carlo Handy Charles3,4,
  4. Akaninyene Otu5,6,
  5. Ronald Labonte7
  1. 1School of International Development and Global Studies, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  2. 2The George Institute for Global Health, University of Oxford, Oxford, United States
  3. 3Department of Sociology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  4. 4Geography at the Laboratoire Caribéen de Sciences Sociales du Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Université des Antilles, Schoelcher, Martinique
  5. 5Department of Infection and Travel Medicine, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, Leeds, United Kingdom
  6. 6Department of Internal Medicine, College of Medical Sciences, University of Calabar, Calabar, Cross River State, Nigeria
  7. 7School of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Sanni Yaya; sanni.yaya{at}

Statistics from

Summary box

  • COVID-19 has further exposed the strong association between race, ethnicity, culture, socioeconomic status and health outcomes and illuminated monumental ethnoracialised differences reflecting the ‘colour of disease’.

  • Racism, segregation and inequality have been invisibly and pervasively embedded in dominant cultures and social institutions for decades.

  • The socioeconomic factors that negatively influence health outcomes within the underserved minority communities must be identified and contextualised within historical, political, social and economic remits.

  • Acquisition of disaggregated data will be vital in identifying gaps in the social determinants of these health disparities and tailoring global policy responses.


As COVID-19 continues to sweep across the globe leaving thousands of victims in its wake, preliminary data from the USA suggest that minorities, especially black people, have been infected and killed at a disproportionate rate across the country.1 The most recent data released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that black communities are disproportionately affected (when it comes to hospitalisation and deaths) by the coronavirus. In Illinois, 37% of the total confirmed cases and 45% of COVID-19 deaths are African Americans, although they account for only 16% of the state population.2 There have been similar trends of infections and deaths in Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina and South Carolina. Other evidence also revealed an over-representation of Latinos and Asians in COVID-19 infection rates when compared with their nationwide populations.3

Similar patterns showing disproportionate infections and deaths in various parts of the globe including Asian countries, Nordic countries and the UK have emerged. People belonging to black and Asian ethnic groups were found to be at a higher risk of in-hospital COVID-19 deaths partly due to deprivation compared with white people.4 5 While blacks are more than four times more likely to die from COVID-19, individuals of Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Chinese and mixed ethnic …

View Full Text

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.