Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups in England are at increased risk of death from COVID-19: indirect standardisation of NHS mortality data
Aldridge RW, Lewer D, Katikireddi SV et al. Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups in England are at increased risk of death from COVID-19: indirect standardisation of NHS mortality data [version 1; peer review: 3 approved with reservations]. Wellcome Open Res 2020, 5:88 (https://doi.org/10.12688/wellcomeopenres.15922.1)
Background: International and UK data suggest that Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups are at increased risk of infection and death from COVID-19. We aimed to explore the risk of death in minority ethnic groups in England using data reported by NHS England.
Methods: We used NHS data on patients with a positive COVID-19 test who died in hospitals in England published on 28th April, with deaths by ethnicity available from 1st March 2020 up to 5pm on 21 April 2020. We undertook indirect standardisation of these data (using the whole population of England as the reference) to produce ethnic specific standardised mortality ratios (SMRs) adjusted for age and geographical region.
Results: The largest total number of deaths in minority ethnic groups were Indian (492 deaths) and Black Caribbean (460 deaths) groups. Adjusting for region we found a lower risk of death for White Irish (SMR 0.52; 95%CIs 0.45-0.60) and White British ethnic groups (0.88; 95%CIs 0.86-0.0.89), but increased risk of death for Black African (3.24; 95%CIs 2.90-3.62), Black Caribbean (2.21; 95%CIs 2.02-2.41), Pakistani (3.29; 95%CIs 2.96-3.64), Bangladeshi (2.41; 95%CIs 1.98-2.91) and Indian (1.70; 95%CIs 1.56-1.85) minority ethnic groups.
Conclusion: Our analysis adds to the evidence that BAME people are at increased risk of death from COVID-19 even after adjusting for geographical region. We believe there is an urgent need to take action to reduce the risk of death for BAME groups and better understand why some ethnic groups experience greater risk. Actions that are likely to reduce these inequities include ensuring adequate income protection (so that low paid and zero-hours contract workers can afford to follow social distancing recommendations), reducing occupational risks (such as ensuring adequate personal protective equipment), reducing barriers in accessing healthcare and providing culturally and linguistically appropriate public health communications.
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