CHRT Health Policy Fellow Dr. Renu Tipirneni calls for bold policy action to address disparities in COVID-19

February 11, 2021
Photo of Dr. Renu Tipirneni

There are significant disparities in U.S. COVID-19 cases and deaths, but the underlying mechanism of these disparities remains unknown, says Health Policy Fellow Dr. Renuka Tipirneni. Tipirneni is a co-author of a cross-sectional study, published this month in JAMA Open, on the social and demographic factors most closely associated with COVID-19 incidence and death.

In this study, Dr. Tipirneni and coauthors investigated associations between county-level social risk factors and COVID-19 incidence and death using publicly available data sets, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Social Vulnerability Index (SVI). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created the Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) to offer a composite measure of community sensitivity to challenges in the face of health shocks, including disease outbreaks.

The group found that “a wide range of social factors, including socioeconomic status, racial/ethnic minority status, family or household composition, and environmental factors, were significantly associated with COVID-19 incidence and mortality, which are also largely considered the driving forces associated with the racial/ethnic and social disparities that are already apparent in the COVID-19 pandemic in the US.”

“To truly bend the curve of disparities in COVID-19 and any future epidemics or pandemics,” write the authors, “these social risk factors and their root causes must be addressed through bold policy action and societal investment.”