COVID-19 is a magnifying glass that has highlighted the larger pandemic of racial/ethnic disparities in health. Emerging data show that racial/ethnic minorities have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.1 Socioeconomic factors and pre-existing medical conditions like hypertension are likely contributing factors to this disparity. Furthermore, limited English proficiency may introduce additional linguistic and health literacy barriers to care — potentially resulting in delays seeking medical attention and greater severity of disease at the time of admission to the hospital with COVID-19 infection.
Disparities in access to care and disease severity are not limited to linguistic barriers. Racial/ethnic non-white communities disproportionately experience lower socioeconomic status, adding another layer of complexity when accessing care. Living and working arrangements also likely play a role in the severity of COVID-19 among these patients.2
Recognizing the barriers is the first step in the call to action to address racial and ethnic disparities. Physicians can help patients overcome these obstacles, and we,
as radiologists, are uniquely poised to make that happen. In radiology, we sit at the crossroads of every specialty. We are in a prime place to inspire broad change and to create teams that are focused on addressing disparities. We can spur collaborations with other medical specialties, community stakeholders, and initiatives to enhance the effectiveness of public health interventions that increase access to care.
We cannot have a high-quality healthcare system if the care we provide is not equitable. The goal of this issue is to not only provide a better understanding of the
emerging disparities, but to craft a better path towards equity — together.
By Efrén J. Flores, MD, officer of radiology community health improvement and equity at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Nicole B. Racadag, MSJ, managing editor, ACR Bulletin