African-American patients with confirmed Covid-19 are more than twice as likely to be hospitalized than non-Hispanic whites, according to a new study.
Among 1,052 confirmed cases of Covid-19 within one California health network, 52% of African Americans were hospitalized compared to 25.7% of non-Hispanic white patients, according to the study, published Thursday in the journal Health Affairs.
Nearly 25% of African Americans who were hospitalized for Covid-19 during the time period studied were transferred to the intensive care unit, compared to 10.7% of whites, the team at Sutter Health, a health care network serving 22 counties in Northern California, including in the San Francisco Bay area, found.
The study used Sutter's electronic health record data of Covid-19 tested and confirmed cases within the network and looked at factors beyond lack of health care coverage, since nearly 93% residents in California are insured under either private or government health plans.
These factors included self-reported race and ethnicity, sex, age, and underlying health conditions.
The study also looked at income level, and found that overall, African Americans live in areas with a lower income compared to other racial and ethnic groups.
Among the confirmed Covid-19 cases during that period of time, 51 patients died. The study did not find a significant difference in the mortality rate when it came to race and ethnicity.
Why this matters: Researchers say genetic or biological factors may increase the severity of illness for African Americans. But they also point to societal factors that may delay seeking care, including structural inequities and unconscious biases on the part of providers.
"The disparity therefore may not be in who is tested but when," the report said.
Dr. Stephen Lockhart, chief medical officer at Sutter Health, said that Covid-19 "has ripped a Band-Aid off the structural inequities that exist within our society."
"We must address these disparities right way because the cost of not addressing them is measured in human life," Lockhart said in a statement.