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New U of M study reveals more pandemic health disparities

Posted at 11:18 AM, Oct 06, 2021

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Data from the University of Michigan shows that people of color are more than 50% likely to be readmitted into the hospital less than 60 days after being discharged.

Valerie Williams, a Farmington Hills resident is still dealing with COVID-19 symptoms a year later.

“It’s emotionally trying,” she adds.

Since getting COVID-19 last summer Williams has been in and out of the hospital three times. She was just in the ER two weeks ago.

“Severe asthma and other respiratory issues that we all think are related to that COVID experience,” says Williams.

She is one of many Black COVID-19 survivors that resist the hospital after being discharged according to a new student done by Dr. Sheria Robinson-Lane and her team at U of M.

“Our big finding that we found was there was not as much medical follow-up as one would anticipate following an infection with COVID-19,” said Robinson-Lane.

The assistant professor and her team looked at health disparities in more than 2,200 COVID-19 patients discharged from Michigan hospitals. Black patients experienced the lowest physician follow-up.

“I think that racism plays a factor in how individuals are seen and processed and received medical care,” adds Robinson-Lane.

Williams tells us she never received a follow-up call.

“I thought that was really odd that no one called me,” she adds.

Dr. Ijeoma Nnodim Opara says health inequity leads to readmissions.

“We know that the way in which our patients are discharged 100% impacts health outcomes,” said Dr. Opara.

She’s also the director of Health, Equity, and Justice in Medicine at Wayne State University.

Dr. Opara believes Black patients need to receive equitable and safe care in order to keep them out of the hospital.

“Appointments may not be made on behalf of the patient. Questions may not be asked in terms of does the patient have the resources they need, whether it's transportation or childcare,” she adds.

Another finding in the study? Black patients experience the longest delays in returning to work.

Robinson-Lane says some employers aren’t accommodating to their recovery needs which can often force people to work even if they aren’t cleared.

“I have had patients who have been severely ill and who are still trying to bargain with me to get them home, so they don’t have to miss work,” Opara tells us.

Researchers say this data including underlying health issues are another reason why communities of color should get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“The COVID is much more dangerous than the vaccine,” Robinson-Lane adds.

Doctors say it’s also time for health care systems to take responsibility

“To look at our processes, our policy, or practices our people, the cultural norms in our healthcare system. Are they truly equitable and just? Are they expressing value for black lives?” she asks.

Her advice to patients and families is to advocate for yourselves.

Click here for COVID-19 resources for caregivers.


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