An article co-authored by PIRE’s Dr. Emily Haozous published in the October 5, 2021 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine brought needed attention to excess deaths in racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. The article, titled “Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Excess Deaths During the COVID-19 Pandemic, March to December 2020,” details the results of a study of death certificate data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Census Bureau population estimates (https://doi.org/10.7326/M21-2134). In this analysis, the authors examined both deaths due to COVID (COVID-19 listed as an underlying cause of death on the death certificate), and overall causes of death. Across all causes, there were higher rates of death in racial and ethnic minorities than in non-Hispanic Whites. The authors identified non-COVID-19 excess deaths disproportionately affecting Black, American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN), and Latino persons, at rates 2 to 4 times higher than in other populations (per 100,000). Although the results from this article only include data from March-December 2020, emerging data suggest these disparities will persist throughout the pandemic.
Upon release, the article was quickly picked up by most major news outlets, including NBC News, Univision, Chicago Tribune, CNN, MSN, ABC, UPI, and many others. Through this widespread dissemination, the article caught the attention of the U.S. House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, chaired by James E. Clyburn (D-SC). On October 22, 2021, the co-authors of the article met remotely with the staff members from the subcommittee to discuss the results of the research. As most of the authors work at NCI and NIMHD, the meeting was also attended by an NIH Legislative Liaison and an NCI Communications Specialist. The meeting was closed to press and was focused entirely on the research results from the writing team, creating a unique opportunity for research results to influence policy through direct dissemination to policy makers. Dr. Haozous was present to provide additional context to the health outcomes found in American Indian and Alaska Native communities; this was important information that had been cut from the original paper due to word limits.
This writing team has been collaborating on research examining excess deaths and “deaths of despair” since 2016, drawing from the CDC’s publicly accessible population level database. For the current paper, they were given access to provisional data that typically are not published for at least 6-8 months from the end of the calendar year. With this early access, the research team was able to identify emerging trends in excess deaths, providing new clarity on the extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the health of diverse racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. This examination of the net impact of the pandemic begins to tell the larger story of healthcare access during the pandemic, including individual and community-level barriers to care.
PIRE is happy to spotlight this exceptional research. For additional information, contact Emily Haozous at firstname.lastname@example.org.