APA Statement on COVID-19 and Health Disparities

WASHINGTON, D.C. April 11, 2020  Reports are emerging that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is disproportionately impacting the African-American community in areas across the United States. In Chicago, for instance, half of those diagnosed with COVID-19 have been black, while African Americans only make up one third of the total population. Seventy percent of the fatalities linked to COVID-19 in Louisiana have been among black people, while this community makes up about a third of the overall population.

The higher rates of infection and fatality are linked to existing health inequities facing black Americans, such as higher rates of diabetes and hypertension (both of which lead to higher mortality rates for COVID-19) and barriers to care. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) is concerned about the impact COVID-19 is having among minority and underserved groups and is calling for appropriate resources to ensure they receive the treatment they need to recover from this virulent illness.

“The COVID-19 virus does not discriminate, but the African-American community is particularly hard hit,” said APA President Bruce Schwartz, M.D. “We call upon local, state and federal health authorities to be mindful of this disparity and ensure that proper treatment and care is provided in minority communities and that the physicians and health care professionals based in those communities get the support they need. These communities are facing great mental stress right now and that will likely continue in the months ahead. It is essential that everyone has the best care possible during this pandemic,” he said.

“It is no surprise that black people are disproportionately affected by COVID-19, given historical and current experiences in this country, rooted in oppression and structural racism” said Ayana Jordan, M.D., Ph.D., APA Early Career Psychiatrist at Large on the APA Board of Trustees. “There is psychological trauma in these communities that must be addressed. We must find culturally-informed ways to attend to the specific trauma occurring amongst African-Americans, while simultaneously advocating for solutions to structural problems,” Jordan said.

“It is time that the Federal Administration convene an expert group of African-American and other minority experts to create a roadmap of implementable steps to address the illnesses in which health inequity has exponentially increased morbidity and mortality for African Americans, Native Americans, and Hispanic Communities,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. “We stand ready to help."

American Psychiatric Association

The American Psychiatric Association, founded in 1844, is the oldest medical association in the country. The APA is also the largest psychiatric association in the world with more than 38,800 physician members specializing in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illnesses. APA’s vision is to ensure access to quality psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. For more information please visit www.psychiatry.org.

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