Critical Voices: Black and Latinx Community Perspectives on COVID-19

Communities experiencing such health inequity and disparities are more likely to have mistrust in systems that have continuously failed them. Understanding the perspectives of those disproportionately affected is critical to not only address them, but also work to correct and prevent these disparities moving forward.

Inching closer to two years of COVID-19 and one fundamental truth about this pandemic has been its amplification of racial and ethnic health disparities. The truth is that there has not been health equity within the United States and there are very real social determinants of health that mean large groups of people are at a health disadvantage regardless of a pandemic.

COVID-19 though has highlighted these health disparities and inequities and as the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) has noted, “some racial and ethnic minority groups are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, play, and worship affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes, such as COVID-19 infection, severe illness, and death. Long-standing inequities in social determinants of health that affect these groups, such as poverty and healthcare access, are interrelated and influence a wide range of health and quality-of-life risks and outcomes.”

Communities experiencing such health inequity and disparities are more likely to have mistrust in systems that have continuously failed them. Understanding the perspectives of those disproportionately affected is critical to not only address them, but also work to correct and prevent these disparities moving forward. A new research publication in JAMA Network sought to better understand the experiences and perspectives of Black and Latinx communities during the COVID-19 pandemic and regarding mitigation efforts like masking and distancing, testing, and vaccines.

The research team performed a community-engaged qualitative study across 18 community-based organizations and 4 healthcare organizations from November 2020 to February 2021 across New Jersey. Biweekly online meetings, groups, and interviews were conducted with 200 recruited individuals, which later resulted in 111 fully surveyed. 78% were women and 61% were Black.

Throughout the interviews, participants shared their experiences during COVID-19 regarding things like the devastation of the disease, information seeking and mitigation behaviors, and vaccine skepticism. The authors reported that they learned of the participants, “Their experiences were marked by fear, illness, loss, and separation. These experiences motivated intense information seeking, mitigation behaviors, and testing. Nevertheless, vaccine skepticism was high across all groups. Participants did not trust the vaccine development process and wanted clearer information. Black participants expressed that they did not want to be subjects of experiments.”

The shared quotes and perspectives within this study are breathtakingly honest and words we should all need to hear and deeply listen to. “…my husband stopped working, I couldn’t work because I had surgery a month ago; he stopped working for 2 months because there were a lot of infected people at his job and they had to close down.”

Now more than ever the perspectives of communities which have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, need to be raised up and listened to. Not only for the sake of improving quality of life and public health, but also our future response to events like this. We cannot afford to continue turning a blind eye to or neglecting the health inequities that exist.