Challenges and opportunities: structural racism and its impact on COVID-19

Tiffany B. Truong, Alec J. Calac, Seif L. Nasir, Laura E. Flores, Ryan F. Boyland, Yasmeen D. Bora, Nada Fadul, Jasmine R. Marcelin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In late December 2019, a novel coronavirus known as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) was discovered as the source of a highly contagious syndrome later named COVID-19, causing severe pneumonia and respiratory failure. As the virus spread rapidly across the globe, the World Health Organization declared it a pandemic on March 12, 2020. Like many health crises throughout history, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed myriad social and health disparities that have long impacted historically vulnerable populations both in the United States and worldwide. Such disparities have manifested as disproportionate diagnoses of COVID-19 depending on race/ethnicity, differential access to testing and treatment of COVID-19, especially in the early days of the pandemic, but continuing to persist throughout, rates of severe disease and death 2-3 times higher in minoritized populations than in White Americans, and significantly lower rates of vaccine uptake in minoritized populations. This disparity has caused many to label the COVID-19 pandemic as a “syndemic.” Syndemic theory at its core rejects the notion that disease can be addressed separately from the sociostructural context in which that disease exists. It necessitates relevant social and structural factors to be considered when assessing how disease affects the population. These factors will vary by group, but may intersect, especially among individuals sharing multiple racial identities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCOVID-19 Viral Sepsis
Subtitle of host publicationImpact on Disparities, Disability, and Health Outcomes
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9780323918121
ISBN (Print)9780323972383
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023


  • Black, Indigenous, people of color
  • COVID-19
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • structural racism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine
  • General Immunology and Microbiology


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