From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers have tracked the stark disparities in who is getting the virus — and who is dying from it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and analysts at APM Research Lab, Black, Native, Latino and Pacific Islander Americans have higher rates of COVID-19 cases, hospitalization and death compared to white Americans.

COVID-19 is just one example of how health outcomes are influenced by many interconnected factors, including social and economic inequities such as unequal access to health care, housing instability and occupational segregation. Black and Latino Americans are overrepresented in front-line, essential jobs that cannot be done remotely, putting them at higher risk for the virus, according to an analysis by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the UW.

Here are a few examples of what University of Washington faculty and staff are doing to better understand these and other factors.

  • Marissa Baker, an assistant professor in the UW Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences, is currently researching the occupational experiences of vulnerable and underrepresented groups. A study she published in 2020 showed that 75% of U.S. workers cannot work remotely — and, thus, face higher risks during the pandemic.
  • With support from the UW Population Health Initiative’s COVID-19 equity research grants, UW researchers are partnering with community organizations to study and mitigate or reverse the pandemic’s disproportionate impacts. From exploring food access among Native tribes in Washington to assessing the extent of housing insecurity in King County, these projects specifically focus on communities of color.
  • The UW School of Nursing established the Center for Antiracism in Nursing to tackle systemic racism in health care. From supporting students from underrepresented groups to cultivating antiracist academic curriculum, the center will be a hub for training, research and practice.