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New CDC MMWR on Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Receipt of Medications for Treatment of COVID-19

woman talking with health professional

Disparities in COVID-19 treatment are the latest example of longstanding inequitable medical treatment of groups of people. A new Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) with contributing authors from OMHHE was released on January 14—on the eve of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The publication is about a large study that observed racial and ethnic disparities in monoclonal antibody (mAb) treatment, which is typically given in outpatient settings to treat COVID-19. The study found that among patients who tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, Hispanic patients received mAb treatment less often than non-Hispanic patients and Black, Asian, and Other race patients received mAb treatment less often than White patients. These disparities might reflect systemic factors such as limited access to testing and care because of availability constraints, inadequate insurance coverage, and transportation challenges; lack of a primary care provider to recommend treatment; variations in treatment supply and distribution; potential biases in prescribing practices; and limited penetration of messaging in some communities about mAb availability and effectiveness to prevent disease progression. This is amplified by the fact that racial and ethnic minority groups are at increased risk for COVID-19 hospitalization and death. As a result of longstanding systemic health and social inequities (social determinants of health), racial and ethnic minority groups have higher rates of pre-existing conditions that place them at increased risk for severe COVID-19-associated outcomes.

Read the full MMWR on CDC’s website.

New CDC Vital Signs Report Reveals a Decade of Continuing HIV Inequities

abstract of stethoscope and ribbon

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launched the Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. (EHE) initiative in 2019. The initiative aims to reduce new HIV infections in the U.S. by 90% by 2030 by scaling up key HIV prevention and treatment strategies. Despite overall progress in reducing new infections among gay and bisexual men, the HIV epidemic continues and is more severe among Black and Hispanic/Latino gay and bisexual men in the decade leading up to the federal EHE initiative.

On November 30, CDC released a media statement that new HIV infection rates dropped among White gay and bisexual men, but stayed flat among Black and Hispanic/Latino gay and bisexual men. From 2010–2019, the number of new HIV infections remained relatively stable among Black (from 9,000 to 8,900) and Hispanic/Latino (from 6,800 to 7,900) gay and bisexual men and declined among White gay and bisexual men (from 7,500 to 5,100). These stark disparities exist due to unequal attainability of HIV prevention and treatment, higher levels of HIV in some communities, and systemic inequities fuel these troubling trends. The new Vital Signs report, which marks World AIDS Day, December 1, shows Black and Hispanic/Latino gay and bisexual men were less likely to receive an HIV diagnosis, be virally suppressed, or use pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV, compared with White gay and bisexual men.

Listen to the Vital Signs audio recording for more information on the HIV epidemic and the persistent inequities.

Number of States with High Obesity Prevalence Rises to Sixteen

woman running up stairs

The number of states in which at least 35% of residents have obesity has nearly doubled since 2018 – and disparities persist – according to new data from CDC. Adult obesity prevalence by race, ethnicity, and location is based on self-reported height and weight data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

Up from nine states in 2018 and 12 in 2019, the 2020 Adult Obesity Prevalence Maps show that 16 states now have an adult obesity prevalence at or above 35%: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware (new this year), Indiana, Iowa (new this year), Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio (new this year), Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas (new this year), and West Virginia. In addition, the maps show that obesity impacts some groups more than others. There are notable differences by race and ethnicity, as shown by combined data from 2018-2020:

  • 0 states among 35 states and territories with sufficient data had an obesity prevalence of 35 percent or higher among non-Hispanic Asian adults.
  • 7 states among 49 states and territories with sufficient data had an obesity prevalence of 35 percent or higher among non-Hispanic White adults.
  • 22 states among 49 states and territories with sufficient data had an obesity prevalence of 35 percent or higher among Hispanic adults.
  • 35 states and the District of Columbia among 48 states and territories with sufficient data had an obesity prevalence of 35 percent or higher among non-Hispanic Black adults.

Learn more about how adult obesity affects some groups more than others.

Health Equity and Psychostimulant Overdose Deaths Among Racial and Ethnic Groups

Mixed age group discusses racial issues

Drug overdoses have claimed nearly 900,000 lives in the United States. over the past 20 years. Recent reports show that drug overdose deaths accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic, outpacing overdose death rates from any previous year. Our colleagues in the Division of Overdose Prevention published new research,external icon examining overdose deaths involving cocaine and psychostimulants with abuse potential (e.g., methamphetamine) among White, Black, Hispanic, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Asian/Pacific Islander persons in the United States.

Findings demonstrate that overdose deaths involving stimulants are disproportionately affecting racial and ethnic minority populations in the United States. This disproportionate impact is coupled with barriers to accessing healthcare. Socioeconomic inequities, such as vast differences in educational and employment opportunities, increase the difficulties to accessing effective medical care for some racial and ethnic minority populations, and may be contributing to negative health outcomes, including increased overdose deaths. The study provides suggestions about how health equity improvements may help decrease drug overdose mortality.

What can be done

  • Overdose prevention and intervention efforts at the federal, state, and local level can incorporate culturally appropriate strategies – such as training for awareness of other religions and non-English languages– to effectively address the overdose epidemic among racial and ethnic minority populations.
  • Healthcare providers, community members, public health professionals and policy makers have the responsibility to pay greater attention to improving gaps in health equity. Investments in cognitive behavioral therapies, contingency management, and other evidence-based treatments for substance use disorder, as well as distribution and accessibility of naloxone (an overdose reversal medication) for people who use opioids or may be exposed to them through their drug use, can help decrease overdose deaths.

Learn more about overdose prevention.

CDC and Extension Foundation Partner Together to Increase Vaccine Education in Rural Areas

man getting vaccine

The Extension Foundation, in cooperation with the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy, through an Interagency Agreement with the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are funding the Cooperative Extension System to address health disparities among rural and other underserved communities. This initiative is called the Extension Collaborative on Immunization Teaching & Engagement (EXCITE).external icon

As of December 2021, EXCITE projects have reached more than 4 million individuals through print, social media, one-on-one conversations, and more. The College of Menominee Nation, a land-grant university, reports that the rate of vaccinated 18–24-year-olds in the surrounding community increased from 31.2%, when they started their outreach in April, to 77.6% as of November 2021. The EXCITE program serves all land-grant universities to reach communities with limited resources to address vaccine hesitancy through two sets of activities:

  1. System-wide engagement with the CDC’s Vaccinate with Confidence communication campaign; and
  2. Selected adult immunization education pilot projects.

Learn more about the EXCITE programexternal icon and it’s use of vaccine education to stop the spread of COVID19 among people who live in rural and other areas.

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Outlines Actions to Help Mitigate Systemic Racism in Clinical Preventive Services

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force) published a new article titled, Actions to Transform US Preventive Services Task Force Methods to Mitigate Systemic Racism in Clinical Preventive Servicesexternal icon, in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The article outlines how the Task Force is helping improve health equity by actively working to counteract the effects of systemic racism in health.

medical professionals

The U.S. life expectancy and health outcomes for preventable causes of disease have continued to lag in populations that experience racism. “Racism has a wide-ranging influence on people’s health, shaping everything from the types of health risks to which they may be exposed, to access to health information, to getting actual preventive care,” says Task Force member Chyke Doubeni, M.D., M.P.H. The Task Force is committed to promoting antiracism and health equity in preventive care by confronting issues related to race and racism throughout our recommendation development process and across all facets of our work.

Read the full press release statement from the Task Force.pdf iconexternal icon

Page last reviewed: January 14, 2022