COVID-19 Rates Seen As Higher Among Minority & Disadvantaged Kids
Minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged children have significantly higher rates of COVID-19, according to a new study led by researchers at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C.
The findings are published online in the journal Pediatrics.
COVID-19, an infection caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 that emerged in late 2019, has infected more than 4.5 million Americans, including tens of thousands of children. Early in the pandemic, researchers discovered significant disparities in the rates of infection in the U.S., with minorities and socioeconomically disadvantaged adults bearing much higher burdens of infection.
However, Monika Goyal, M.D., M.S.C.E, a pediatric emergency medicine specialist and associate division chief in the Division of Emergency Medicine at Children’s National, said it was still unknown whether these disproportionate rates of infection are reflected in children and young people.
To explore this question, Goyal — whose research focuses on health disparities — and a research team analyzed data gathered between March 21 and April 28, 2020, from a drive-through/walk-up COVID-19 testing site affiliated with Children’s National, one of the first exclusively pediatric testing sites for the virus in the U.S.
To access this free testing site, funded by philanthropic support, patients between the ages of 0 and 22 years needed to meet specific criteria: mild symptoms and either known exposure, high-risk status, family member with high-risk status or required testing for work. Physicians referred patients through an online portal that collected basic demographic information, reported symptoms and the reason for referral.
When the researchers investigated the data from the first 1,000 patients tested at this site, they found that infection rates differed dramatically among different racial and ethnic groups. While about 7% of non-Hispanic white children were positive for COVID-19, about 30% of non-Hispanic Black and 46% of Hispanic children were positive.
“You’re going from about one in 10 non-Hispanic white children to one in three non-Hispanic Black children and one in two Hispanic children. It’s striking,” said Goyal.
Using data from the American Families Survey, which uses five-year census estimates derived from home address to estimate median family income, the research team divided the group of 1,000 patients into estimated family income quartiles.
They discovered notable disparities in COVID-19 positivity rates by income levels: While those in the highest quartile had infection rates of about 9%, about 38% of those in the lowest quartile were infected.
There were additional disparities in exposure status, said Goyal. Of the 10% of patients who reported known exposure to COVID-19, about 11% of these were nonHispanic white. However, non-Hispanic Black children were triple this number.
Although these numbers show clear disparities in COVID-19 infection rates, the authors are now trying to understand why these disparities occur and how they can be reduced.
“Some possible reasons may be socioeconomic factors that increase exposure, differences in access to health care and resources, as well as structural racism,” Goyal said.
She added that Children’s National is working to address those factors that might increase risk for COVID-19 infection and poor outcomes by helping to identify unmet needs such as food and/or housing insecurity, and steer patients toward resources when patients receive their test results.
“As clinicians and researchers at Children’s National, we pride ourselves on not only being a top-tier research institution that provides cutting-edge care to children, but by being a hospital that cares about the community we serve,” said Denice Cora-Bramble, M.D., M.B.A., chief medical officer of Ambulatory and Community Health Services at Children’s National and the research study’s senior author. “There’s still so much work to be done to achieve health equity for children.”
Source: Children’s National Hospital
Pedersen, T. (2020). COVID-19 Rates Seen As Higher Among Minority & Disadvantaged Kids. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 23, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2020/08/06/covid-19-rates-seen-as-higher-among-minority-disadvantaged-kids/158649.html