February, 2021

Investigating Covid-19 in Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities

A new study, led by Barts Health NHS Trust and Queen Mary University of London seeks to understand why Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities are disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 virus.

People from racial minorities are more likely to become very unwell or die from Covid-19 than those of white ethnicity. Compared to the general population, those of Black African heritage are 3.24 times more likely to die from Covid-19 and Bangladeshi populations are 2.41 times more likely to die.

In a new study, researchers at Queen Mary University of London and Barts Health NHS Trust are working to gain a deep insight into the causes of Covid-19 based on the lived experience of east London’s racially diverse communities, through interviews and questionnaires.

The team will work across east London, a densely urbanised, multi-ethnic area which has some of the UK’s highest incidence and death rates of the Covid-19 pandemic and directly with local residents to understand their life before, and during, Covid-19.

The research team are also planning further studies into the treatment and outcomes of 3,000 patients from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds patients treated for Covid-19 at Barts Health NHS Trust. This will be cross-referenced with local authority data from Tower Hamlets and Newham to explore factors like socioeconomic status, household density, and geographic health factors such as pollution.

It’s expected the research will help the NHS and policymakers develop strategies to reduce the damaging impact of Covid-19 on Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities and could also provide useful insights for the many other health issues where ethnic differences exist.

The research will also address the lower vaccine uptake within racially minoritized groups. The team are already working with a number of boroughs on how trust around the vaccine can be built, and this study will help them to better understand and unpick the hesitancy within these groups.

The project is led by Professor Chloe Orkin and Dr Vanessa Apea, NIHR BME clinical co-leads for Covid-19. As clinical lead for Covid-19 Research for Barts Health NHS Trust, Professor Orkin, has recently played a crucial role in setting up Covid-19 vaccine trials centre at Bethnal Green Library.

Dr Apea, who was born in East London herself, says: “Poorer health outcomes in racially minoritized groups are not new, but have been revealed more starkly than ever by Covid-19, and must be urgently addressed. Authentic community engagement and co-creation of solutions are key to achieving health equity.”

Barts Charity’s are funding this study. The funding forms part of a suite of seed grants to help provide insight into a number of conditions affecting the health of East Londoners, including Covid-19.

The Charity’s Chief Executive Fiona Miller Smith says: ““As a charity dedicated to supporting the health of East Londoners, we are no strangers to the stark effects of health inequalities. And providing funding to better understand and ultimately overcome these inequalities is really important for us. As we are by no means out of the woods yet when it comes to Covid-19, we are rightly proud to be backing this very valuable contribution”.

Register your interest in taking part in the study at www.amplifyinglives.com