Gov. Mike DeWine announced this week the recommendations that the Minority Health Strike Force established to address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Ohio’s black community.
According to DeWine’s press release, African-Americans make up “14 percent of Ohio’s population, but represent 26 percent of positive COVID-19 cases, 31 percent of COVID-19 hospitalizations, and 17 percent of COVID-19 deaths in Ohio.”
“I am deeply concerned about this data. I am the Governor of all of Ohio, and when I see something disproportionately affecting some of our citizens, I have a responsibility to do something,” the governor said.
“To augment on the work that we are currently doing on health equity and to address the immediate threats posed by COVID-19 to our minority communities we intend to move forward with the strike force’s recommendations, and we have several additional efforts that are ready to get underway,” he added.
The recommendations the strike force came up with included:
- Establishing culturally appropriate and accessible COVID-19 exposure notification services for communities of color.
- Expanding testing capacity and access for minorities and high-risk populations.
- Using data to prioritize resources in the communities that have the highest need.
- Developing and launching a statewide, culturally-sensitive outreach campaign that educates African Americans and communities of color on COVID-19, health disparities, and social determinants of health.
Furthermore, the Ohio Department of Health is going to create a position that deals with “social determinants of health and opportunity.” This new job will also create ways to respond to “health inequity by working directly with local communities on their specific long-term health needs and Ohio’s response to COVID-19.”
As the task force’s recommendations focused on mostly outreach, cultural sensitivity and health inequity, a key part not mentioned is how people’s diet, specifically vitamin D, can affect people with the coronavirus.
A recent May study done by Northwestern University “discovered a strong correlation between severe vitamin D deficiency and mortality rates,” according to the school’s press release.
Northwestern researchers made a “statistical analysis of data from hospitals and clinics across China, France, Germany, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States.”
The study found that in places with high mortality rates like Italy, Spain and Britain, they had lower vitamin D levels compared to patients in countries who were not severy affected, according to the Northwestern press release.
People who had lower levels of vitamin D were two times more likely to deal with severe complications, including death from the coronavirus, the study found.
Vadim Backman, Northwestern’s lead researcher on this project, and his team found a“strong correlation between vitamin D levels and cytokine storm.”
“Cytokine storm can severely damage lungs and lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome and death in patients,” Ali Daneshkhah, who is a postdoctoral research associate in Backman’s laboratory, said. “This is what seems to kill a majority of COVID-19 patients, not the destruction of the lungs by the virus itself. It is the complications from the misdirected fire from the immune system.”
This information is important for all people to know, but especially for the black community. A 2019 study done by the Cooper Institute, which is an institute that promotes “life-long health and wellness through research and education,” found that 40 percent of American adults are vitamin D deficient. However, for adults in the black community, the number could be as high as 76 percent.
“Some of the health disparities that we see in African-American Adults may be partially due to the high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in this population,” said Steve Farrell, PhD, lead researcher on the study and senior investigator for the Cooper Institute.
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Zachery Schmidt is the digital editor of Star News Digital Media. If you have any tips, email Zachery at [email protected] Follow Zachery on Twitter @zacheryschmidt2.