COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Data shows African Americans in central Ohio are being hospitalized at higher rates than other races who have COVID-19.
The City of Columbus said it’s renewing its efforts in calling out the institutional racism that has led to inequity in access to healthcare, to fresh food, and to housing in Columbus.
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther wants to acknowledge black Americans have faced racism that has shaped their lives and health.
“The point is not that we need to own the history of racism, but as leaders in this community, particularly that are committed to an equity agenda, we have to acknowledge it exist, and clearly these health disparities that are now glaring before us with respect to the COVID-19 crisis,” said Ginther. “It would be reckless of us not to acknowledge what we see and what’s happening to our neighbors in this community and around the country.”
There are underlying health conditions like asthma, kidney disease, and diabetes causing African Americans to have more complications from COVID-19.
Columbus Public Health Director Dr. Mysheika Roberts said living in small, tight-knit communities that lack sidewalks which don’t promote healthy living, food deserts which prevent access to fresh produce, and limited access to healthcare, are also contributing to the problem.
“The bottom line here is that racism and health disparities are a public health crisis and one that has come even more apparent during this unprecedented pandemic,” said Roberts.
She adds that here in central Ohio, 13 percent of black Americans are uninsured, compared to 6 percent of white Americans.
“If you don’t know that data, if you don’t know what you’re seeing, then you don’t know how to intervene, you don’t know how to assist and where to deploy those resources,” said Roberts.
African Americans in central Ohio make up 29 percent of the population, but they account for 38 percent of the COVID-19 hospitalizations, and 33 percent of patients who need more serious care.
Council President Shannon Hardin pointed to racist policies of the past that have hurt the progress of African Americans economically and health-wise.
“Disinvestment and lack of focus on health equity has created disparities that we see today,” said Hardin. “Racist policies from the past are not just unique to Columbus. However, I believe by focusing on data and prioritizing investment in our communities, Columbus can change this narrative.”
It is part of the reason Columbus Public Health is opening its Public Health Innovation Center to look at the data and figure out how to help communities in need.
The center’s mission is to reducing health inequities which will increase life expectancy and raise the quality of life for black Americans.
It will also help develop policy to create equity across the city.
“Until we address these disparities that exist in this community, there’s no way we can meet our full potential,” said Ginther
City leaders say they plan to keep this work going even after the pandemic ends.