A group of researchers from Harvard Medical School and the University of Missouri/USA including Associate Professor Maria Dalamaga from the School of Medicine of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens has analyzed the impact of disparities in nutrition and obesity on Covid-19. This article was recently published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine (https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp2021264).
Black, Latinx, and Native Americans are experiencing disproportionate burdens of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths from SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) in the USA. The age-adjusted hospitalization rates for Covid-19 among racial minorities are approximately four to five times that of White Americans. These stark manifestations of health inequities have emerged in the wake of a body of evidence linking obesity and obesity-related chronic diseases, such as hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease—conditions that disproportionately affect disadvantaged populations—with severe outcomes from Covid-19. Long-standing disparities in nutrition (access to healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in sugar and calorie-dense processed foods) and obesity play a crucial role in the health inequities unfolding during the pandemic.
Social determinants of health (racial and ethnic discrimination; access to healthy food; access to health care; location and physical environment; socioeconomic status; education; social and community context), obesity, chronic diseases, and severe negative outcomes from Covid-19 are all interrelated. A lack of access to healthy foods, a preponderance of low quality nutrition, and higher rates of food insecurity, result in a higher prevalence of obesity and chronic diseases which are responsible for the increased morbidity and mortality from Covid-19 in disadvantaged populations. This article analyzes the social determinants of health as the root cause of racial and ethnic health disparities, including severe outcomes from Covid-19, giving insights in public health policy measures.