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Addressing healthcare inequities among minorities

Posted at 9:57 AM, Apr 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-30 11:58:02-04

COVID-19 disproportionately hit people in minority groups harder across the nation and here in Utah.

Dr. Amy Khan, Executive Medical Director for Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah says, "I think we need to acknowledge that these health disparities have persisted for a long time and check out the data."

Dr. Khans says the health disparity gap has only been widened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We really have significant barriers to timely, quality and culturally appropriate healthcare," said Khan.

Khan says contributing factors include lower economic levels, more limited education, and lack of insurance coverage.

"As a result, ethnic minorities have had an increased burden of chronic conditions. Diseases like as asthma, diabetes, obesity and heart disease," says Khan.

And it's because of these chronic conditions that doctors say minority groups have seen more serious impacts from COVID-19.

"Nationwide, American Indians and Hispanic persons have died from COVID-19 at a higher rate than non-Hispanic/white individuals," says Khan.

In Utah, 14 percent of our population is Hispanic, but have accounted for 23 percent of the COVID-19 cases in our state and 18 percent of the hospitalizations.

Khan says, "Some of the underlying reasons for the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 in these ethnic minority groups include being more likely to being an essential worker."

And when it comes to vaccinations, only 6 to 7 percent of the Latino community have been immunized, compared to 25 percent overall in the state.

"We need to look at addressing some of those inequities, some of those structural factors that we can all look toward addressing to improve the life of everyone in Utah, particularly as we look toward a brighter future," says Khan.

Regence and other healthcare providers are trying to narrow the gap by supporting efforts like virtual care in rural areas and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

Additionally, there's a new campaign called Ride United Vaccine Access, which provides no-cost round-trip Lyft rides to vaccination appointments.

The service is available in Box Elder, Davis, Salt Lake, Tooele, Uintah, Utah, Wasatch, Washington and Weber Counties. Those in need of a ride to their vaccine appointment should call 211 or visit 211.utah.org for more information.