Public Health England releases recommendations to protect BAME groups during COVID-19.

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Vina Madhavji considers the new Public Health England report on Covid-19 in BAME communities

Public Health England has released its report ‘Understanding the Impact of COVID-19 on BAME groups.

This latest report, like its predecessor,  confirms that those from BAME groups are more susceptible to contracting and dying from Covid-19.

The report summarises the current literature and is based on external stakeholder engagement. Genetic factors were not considered by the review.

Of striking note, is the indication that structural inequalities faced by BAME groups, pre-existent to the Covid-19 pandemic, intensify the risk of Covid-19 contraction and mortality.

The report states:-

“The literature review and stakeholder feedback indicate that risks associated with COVID-19 transmission, morbidity, and mortality can be exacerbated by the housing challenges faced by some members of BAME groups. The most recent research from the UK suggests that both ethnicity and income inequality are independently associated with COVID-19 mortality. Individuals from BAME groups are more likely to work in occupations with a higher risk of COVID-19 exposure. They are more likely to use public transportation to travel to their essential work. Historic racism and poorer experiences of healthcare or at work may mean that individuals in BAME groups are less likely to seek care when needed or as NHS staff are less likely to speak up when they have concerns about Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) or risk….”


The Report makes the following recommendations, whose value will rest contingent on the timely implementation.

  1. Comprehensive and quality ethnicity data collection and recording as part of routine NHS and social care data collection systems, including the mandatory collection of ethnicity data at death certification, and ensure that data are readily available to local health and care partners to inform actions to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on BAME communities.
  2. Support community participatory research, in which researchers and community stakeholders engage as equal partners in all steps of the research process, to understand the social, cultural, structural, economic, religious, and commercial determinants of COVID-19 in BAME communities, and to develop readily implementable and scalable programmes to reduce risk and improve health outcomes.
  3. Improve access, experiences and outcomes of NHS, local government and integrated care systems commissioned services by BAME communities including: regular equity audits; use of health impact assessments; integration of equality into quality systems; good representation of black and minority ethnic communities among staff at all levels; sustained workforce development and employment practices; trust-building dialogue with service users.
  4. Accelerate the development of culturally competent occupational risk assessment tools that can be employed in a variety of occupational settings and used to reduce the risk of employee’s exposure to and acquisition of COVID-19, especially for key workers working with a large cross section of the general public or in contact with those infected with COVID-19.
  5. Fund, develop and implement culturally competent COVID-19 education and prevention campaigns, working in partnership with local BAME and faith communities to reinforce individual and household risk reduction strategies; rebuild trust with and uptake of routine clinical services; reinforce messages on early identification, testing and diagnosis; and prepare communities to take full advantage of interventions including contact tracing, antibody testing and ultimately vaccine availability.
  6. Accelerate efforts to target culturally competent health promotion and disease prevention programmes for non-communicable diseases promoting healthy weight, physical activity, smoking cessation, mental wellbeing and effective management of chronic conditions including diabetes, hypertension and asthma.
  7. Ensure that COVID-19 recovery strategies actively reduce inequalities caused by the wider determinants of health to create long term sustainable change. Fully funded, sustained and meaningful approaches to tackling ethnic inequalities must be prioritised.

The full report can be read here.

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