Black COVID-19 survivors in Michigan suffer worse outcomes than white counterparts, U-M study says

Research conducted by U-M’s School of Public Health, MDHHS

A procession of vehicles drive past photos of Detroit victims of COVID-19, Monday, Aug. 31, 2020 on Belle Isle in Detroit. Families have a chance to take one last public look at their lost loved ones in the nation's first citywide memorial to honor victims of the pandemic. Mourners will join 14 consecutive funeral processions to drive past nearly 900 large poster-sized photos of their loved ones staked around the island. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio) (Carlos Osorio, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

ANN ARBOR – Researchers at the University of Michigan studying the impact of COVID-19 on Michiganders have found that Black survivors of the virus experience worse socioeconomic and health outcomes than their white counterparts.

The joint research is being conducted by the University of Michigan School of Public Health and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services as part of the Michigan COVID-19 Recovery Surveillance Study.

Researchers hope the study’s data will inform future health equity and response efforts during the coronavirus pandemic and other public health emergencies that arise.

For the study, 637 COVID-19 survivors in Michigan were surveyed.

Here are some of the study’s key findings, according to U-M:

  • More Black than white respondents reported severe or very severe symptoms (73% vs. 61%) or required an overnight hospital stay (45% vs. 28%).
  • More Black respondents reported increased social stressors since the start of the pandemic, with 26% being unable to pay important bills like mortgage, rent or utilities (versus 10% of white respondents).
  • About 9% of Black respondents believed their experiences seeking health care were worse than people from other races, while 19% of white respondents believed their experiences were better than people from other races.
  • More Black respondents (23%) were afraid to disclose their COVID-19 status to their friends or family than white respondents (10%).

“We know that Black Michiganders, especially early in the pandemic, suffered disproportionately from COVID-19 compared to white Michiganders, in terms of infection and death,” lead investigator Nancy Fleischer, associate professor of epidemiology at the U-M School of Public Health, said in a statement.

“What this research shows is that Black Michiganders have also had more severe illness, had worse experiences with the health care system and suffered more from the economic consequences of the pandemic than white Michiganders. We can use this information to help reduce racial disparities from the impact of COVID-19 in our state.”

Chief medical executive and chief deputy director for health for the MDHHS, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, said that Black and Brown communities have faced “devastating and disproportionate harm” across the board when it came to socioeconomic and health factors.

“From health to financial security, this study shows minority populations experienced more challenges than other populations,” Khaldun said in a statement. “MDHHS will continue to work with partners to promote equity and eliminate these disparities in health care access and deaths.”

Researchers hope that additional racial and ethnic groups will be represented in the ongoing study.