Racial Disparities in Healthcare

Racial Disparities in Healthcare

The COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe in January of 2020 causing mass panic and extreme hysteria. While pandemics are not new, COVID-19 is emerging as a public health crisis in nearly every household in America. In this paper, I discuss how COVID-19 has ravaged one of the wealthiest African American counties in the United States. Using Public Health Critical Race Praxis (PHCR) I seek to examine how disparities exist in health care and public funding is not equally distributed regardless of wealth and status for minor- itized communities. Using PCHR’s framework I highlight many of the dispa- rities that exist in health care for people of color during this global health crisis and provide implications for improvement in federal, state, and local funding in communities of color. This article advances scholarship on the intersection between public health and social work particularly alluding to the need for increased advocacy for marginalized communities. Racial Disparities in Healthcare

KEYWORDS Anxiety; COVID-19; public health critical race praxis (PHCR); social work; African Americans; marginalized communities


First detected in Wuhan, China, a virus known as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (i.e., SARS-CoV-2) has presented not only an environmental-based risk but also a global response (The Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University, 2020). Since the proliferation of this virus, public health officials have termed the subsequent disease as ”COVID-19” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2020). Since sparking international recognition, the field of social work practice and education has begun exploring its impact on different systems (e.g., education, financial, health, population). As a result, under the Trump Administration, the White House Coronavirus Task Force has commissioned key leaders within public health to combat its upward progression within U.S. borders. Thus, this sparked social work to respond to the COVID- 19 pandemic with challenges faced across all levels, especially a public health perspective. Racial Disparities in Healthcare

The mass hysteria presented by the COVID-19 pandemic impacted every sector of life across the world. In the beginning stages of the virus many in the African American community felt that they were immune from the virus, because media reports primarily showed White Americans contracting the Coronavirus. The first publicized case of an African American testing positive was Donovan Mitchell, guard for the Utah Jazz (Ellentuck, 2020). This dispelled the myth that African Americans could not catch the virus. Since that time CDC data shows that African Americans have been disproportionally affected by the virus at much higher levels than all other races in the United States (Bouie, 2020). Undoubtedly, this swift change caused undue anxieties for many African Americans related as well as health and safety concerns. Recognizing the anxiety-induced trauma this presented for African Americans I explored how COVID-19 has affected the wealthiest African American county in the United States. Racial Disparities in Healthcare

CONTACT Darius D.Reed darius.reed@gmail.com 9205 Rice Avenue, Glenarden, MD 20706 .

SOCIAL WORK IN PUBLIC HEALTH 2021, VOL. 36, NO. 2, 118–127 https://doi.org/10.1080/19371918.2020.1868371

© 2020 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC


https://crossmark.crossref.org/dialog/?doi=10.1080/19371918.2020.1868371&domain=pdf&date_stamp=2021-03-04 Racial Disparities in Healthcare


The article will address how COVID-19 has ravaged one of the wealthiest African American County in the United States and the mental health implications that may result from the fallout. It will also address the taken for granted perspective of public health social workers and the potential fallout that may arise due to the fluid and ever evolving public health crisis and its subsequent impact on the mental health of African Americans. Moreover, as an African American social worker and educator residing in Prince Georges County Maryland, I give voice to the unrealized repercussion that this pandemic has imposed on frontline workers such as myself. In the section that follows, I will give a brief literature review on the evolution of COVID-19 not only locally but also globally. In that same vein, situate the racial disparities narratives within the theoretical framework of Public Health Critical Race Praxis (PHCR) to further elaborate on gravity this pandemic imposes an already inequitable and under-resourced healthcare system. Finally, I hope that by nuancing this virus’s impact; particularly, among public health social workers will inform how to further interventions and policies in the event of another global crisis, whether it be from a social work education or practice stance. Racial Disparities in Healthcare


As stated earlier, in the article, this virus originated within the borders of mainland China. Since its global appearance medical and social scientists have engaged in international deliberations to pinpoint the exact evolution of SARS-CoV-2 since December 2019 (Holshue et al., 2020). Scientists have hypothesized that the virus may be airborne thus allowing it to spread mainly from person to person, through respiratory droplets (e.g., sneezing, coughing, bodily fluids) produced by an infectious person(s). Other discussion involved that due to the configuration of the virus (e.g., spike proteins) droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs (CDC, 2020). Therefore, the Trump Administration, and the guidance of the U.S. Surgeon General, Jerome M. Adams, they issued a list of recommendations to combat the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in the U.S (CDC, 2020). Racial Disparities in Healthcare

For context, the first confirmed case of SARS-CoV-2 in the U.S. was reported on January 31, 2020, in Washington State (Holshue et al., 2020). Based on current data, there are now 1,602,148 confirmed cases as of May 23, 2020; which exceeds cases reported in all other countries in the world (CSSE, 2020). As a result of the ever-increasing numbers local and state governments instituted “shelter-in-place” or “stay-at-home orders” in order to decrease the number of COVID-19 cases plaguing the continental U.S. Understandably, such orders placed an undue economic and social burdens on the United States; however, enacting such orders was for the safety and protection of all citizens. President Trump and his cabinet encouraged individuals to wear face masks and engage in “social distancing” where people practice at least a 6ʹ feet distancing from one another in order to reduce the surge in COVID-19 cases (CDC, 2020).

Having given a thorough review of this virus’s origin, it would now be fair to take into considera- tion The White House’s response toward treating the confirmed SARS-CoV-2 cases. Through the regular and sometimes disorganized White House briefing, Trump’s White House COVID-19 response team presented the American population with conflicting health messages in regards to the severity of its impact as well as potential “treatments.” In one breadth, Dr. Facui delivered sound empirical knowledge speaking to the fluidity of the virus global progression; however, in the same not being allowed to fully desegregate myth from the fact due to socio-political constraints. President Trump initially down-played the severity of the virus, followed by reversing course and insisting that Americans take the virus seriously, while in the same breath expressing that it would “blow over” soon (Milbank, 2020). As a seasoned social worker this messaged presented numerous inconsistencies and undoubtedly resulted in the high level of coronavirus cases Racial Disparities in Healthcare