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Randall Akee, EconoFact
Randall Akee, EconoFact
There is emerging evidence that many disadvantaged communities in the United States are being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Native American communities share some of the characteristics of other disadvantaged communities that might make them susceptible to greater impacts, but they also face unique challenges. Difficulties inherent in studying small population groups as well as differences in access to testing for COVID-19 present challenges to understanding the full impact of the epidemic on these communities. However, there are indications that some Native American populations are facing a disproportionate brunt of the COVID-19 epidemic with higher infection and mortality rates than the overall U.S. population. Understanding how the disease is affecting these communities is important to mitigating the damage. Specific measures that address water infrastructure in some reservations and language or communication barriers may be warranted.
Small population race and ethnic groups must be identified and counted during public health epidemics. There are continuing issues and concerns that American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) individuals are being mis-categorized as Latinx or Hispanic based on surnames or appearance in certain state counts. In many state health departments, AIAN individuals are simply classified as “other.” If this is the case, then there will be an undercount of the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic in certain communities. A better understanding of how the pandemic is playing out in these communities might help provide better-targeted, context-specific policies. There is emerging evidence that the lack of complete plumbing facilities is related to disproportionately high COVID-19 cases on American Indian reservations. This may necessitate the provision of water supplies in the future if and when additional waves of infection start again. Effective communication of public health warnings and directives may need to be translated into more languages than simply English.
This article was republished with permission from EconoFact. You can find the original article here.
Randall Akee is an associate professor of public policy at the University of California, Los Angeles.
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