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COVID-19, Disparities, and Opportunities for Equity in Otolaryngology—Unequal America

Educational Objective
To understand how COVID-19 is highlighting disparities and opportunities for equity in Otolaryngology
1 Credit CME

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has laid bare health disparities in the US. Black and Latinx people have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. In New York City, reported death rates through April 8, 2020, for Latinx and Black people were 22 per 100 000 and 20 per 100 000, respectively—more than twice the mortality rate of 10 per 100 000 for White individuals.1 The disproportionate burden of hospitalization and deaths in the predominantly minority borough of the Bronx was subsequently confirmed.2 Michigan, Louisiana, and Illinois also report high mortality rates among Black and other minority residents relative to White residents. Crowded housing preventing social distancing, unavoidable occupational exposure, necessary use of public transportation, and delays in access to medical care are thought to be some of the underlying causal mechanisms. Racial and ethnic minority patients also experience a greater burden of comorbidities, which are associated with increased risk of death from COVID-19. These comorbidities also are direct effects of system-based, societal problems that perpetuate worse overall health for minority patients. The aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to reveal the inequality in America’s health care system and societal structure; therefore, we, as otolaryngologists, must act.

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Article Information

Corresponding Author: Regan W. Bergmark, MD, Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, Harvard Medical School, Center for Surgery and Public Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, 45 Francis St, Boston, MA 02114 (rbergmark@bwh.harvard.edu).

Published Online: September 10, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2020.2874

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Dr Bergmark reported support from the Brigham and Women’s Department of Surgery for the submitted work and a grant from the American Board of Medical Specialties outside the submitted work. No other disclosures were reported.

Funding/Support: This work was supported by the Department of Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Role of the Funder/Sponsor: The Department of Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital had no role in the preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript and decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

References
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