New Horizons in Science

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Unequal burdens: Addressing the racial inequities in health care revealed and exacerbated by COVID-19

Topic: Public Health
Graphic design of people wearing masks
Wednesday, October 21, 2020 -
4:00pm to 4:30pm


SARS-CoV-2 is blind to race, but the virus has hit some racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. far harder than others. In July, a UCLA study reported that "Latinos and Blacks in both Los Angeles County and NYC are twice as likely to die of COVID-19 as non-Hispanic whites. Native Hawai’ians or other Pacific Islanders are nearly seven times at risk for becoming infected in Los Angeles, and have nearly five times the death rate of whites." By June, Native residents of New Mexico accounted for about 60% of coronavirus deaths, though they make up less than 9% of the population.

The disproportionate impacts of this pandemic on Black, Latino, and Native Americans, as well as other people of color, throw into sharp relief longstanding racial inequities in American health care, educational and economic opportunity, and political representation. Coronavirus has added urgency to reforms that redress the cumulative effects of systemic racism in how medicine and science are practiced.

In this session, public health experts from each of these communities will use the focusing lens of the pandemic and results from their own research and lived experiences to highlight the solvable problems that contribute most to these health disparities. They will help us understand how science writers can avoid racial and ethnic framing and tropes that reinforce discriminatory systems. And they will point us to underreported successes in which communities of color have themselves taken innovative steps to combat coronavirus that could serve as a model for the nation.


  • Mary T. Bassett (Speaker) Director, François-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) Center for Health and Human Rights; FXB Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard University
  • Spero Manson (Speaker) Distinguished professor of public health and psychiatry, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Center
  • David Hayes-Bautista (Speaker) Director, Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture, University of California, Los Angeles
  • W. Wayt Gibbs (Moderator) New Horizons in Science program director, CASW

Image: Many Masks by muffinn (CC BY 2.0)

About CASW

The Council for the Advancement of Science Writing is committed to improving the quality and quantity of science news reaching the public. Directed and advised by distinguished journalists and scientists, CASW develops and funds programs that encourage accurate and informative writing about developments in science, technology, medicine and the environment.

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