Children's Hospital Colorado
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The Impact of COVID-19 on Health Disparities


Person stares directly into the camera while wearing a mask

In a recent retrospective cohort analysis, yet to be published from the Children with COVID-19 in Colorado study, senior authors Jill Kaar, PhD, and Kelly Graff, MD, studied records of 1,572 Children’s Hospital Colorado patients ages 2 to 20 with COVID-19 from March 2020 through October 2020.

“The environment in which we are born, learn, work and play has a major impact on our health and well-being. It is these social determinants of health that play a central role in the disparities that we see and help explain the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has had among minority communities,” Dr. Graff says.

The research team had previously demonstrated that Hispanic and Latino children were disproportionately affected with severe COVID-19 early in the pandemic in a study published by Dr. Graff and her colleagues in The Pediatric Infectious Diseases Journal in 2021. “In examining the ways COVID-19 disproportionately impacted certain communities, we found that severe COVID-19 disease in Hispanic and Latino children is associated with underlying comorbid conditions (e.g., obesity) and socioeconomic disadvantages (e.g., language barriers and insurance status) that may have influenced access to care,” Dr. Graff says. 

Dr. Kaar adds, “The data confirmed our suspicions that although Hispanic ethnicity is associated with severe COVID-19 illness, it is confounded by various social determinants of health.”

While being an ethnic minority shouldn’t be a risk factor for severe disease, Dr. Kaar suggests a more granular and targeted approach to messaging and mitigation efforts with a firm grasp of those deep-rooted social determinants of health.

I want public health officials and pediatric providers to use this knowledge to go further with outreach efforts to better target patients with comorbidities, as well as those in low-income or non-English speaking households,” Dr. Kaar says.