Existing health inequalities in the West Midlands have been starkly exposed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report.
The Interim Report and Call for Evidence, published by Public Health England (PHE) and the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), warns that long-standing inequalities affecting ethnic minority groups and the challenges they face through systemic discrimination have been laid bare by the virus and may have even been made worse.
The group was brought together by the WMCA in May this year and includes representatives from the combined authority, PHE, local authorities, universities, community organisations and the NHS. Its aim is to investigate health inequalities across the region, starting with the impact of Covid-19.
It now wants to hear from the public, health care providers, businesses and other organisations about how the pandemic has impacted on their lives and operations.
Their experiences will help shape a final Health of the Region Report due to be published later this year, which will look at the impact of COVID-19 on inequalities in health and wellbeing.
According to the interim report, the pandemic has also exposed inextricable links between health and wealth and exacerbated existing inequalities in both physical and mental health.
Young people’s mental health is a particular concern in light of their employment prospects, with a 50% increase on the previous year in those reporting suicidal thoughts, according to the report.
‘It became clear very early on in the pandemic that coronavirus was having different impacts on different communities, and appeared to be disproportionately affecting ethnic minority groups,’ said West Midlands mayor, Andy Street.
‘That is why, as well as inputting into Public Health England’s rapid review into the subject, the WMCA commissioned this report. It is critical the report hears a wide range of views, which is why we are bringing together PHE, local authorities, universities, community organisations, and the NHS to help guide the report and its findings.
‘Now we need the view of citizens across the West Midlands, and I would urge everyone to respond to the call to evidence and make their views heard. We must do all we can to stamp out inequality in the region.’
Dr Lola Abudu, health and wellbeing director for Public Health England (PHE) in the West Midlands, said: ‘The PHE Population Intelligence Hub has produced this report, after spending more than three months exploring vulnerabilities, risk factors and inequalities in the region, to better understand population groups most likely to be disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
‘The impact of COVID-19 has replicated existing health inequalities and, in some cases, increased them. There remain significant unanswered questions about the higher death rates in ethnic minority communities, so further research is needed urgently.’
Photo Credit – Coyot (Pixabay)