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Research focuses on risk and impact of Covid-19 on ethnic communities

Research focuses on risk and impact of Covid-19 on ethnic communities

Researchers at the University of Wolverhampton and University of Birmingham have undertaken a study to understand the risk and impact of Covid-19 using the perspectives of ethnic community leaders across one of the most diverse regions in England.  

The small research study focused on ethnic community organisations and places of worship across the West Midlands. 

Covid-19 was declared a global pandemic in March 2020 with over 120,000 deaths from the virus by February 2021 with ethnic groups being disproportionately affected. 

The aim of the study was to explore the perspectives of 19 ethnic community leaders including community activists, religious leaders, primary school officials and local business owners, in relation to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on their communities and their community’s perception, understanding and adherence to government guidelines on Covid-19 public health measures. 

The research found that participants alluded to the disparities in infection rates and outcomes to historical and structural discrimination. Many community members experienced racism and stigmatisation during the pandemic, mirroring patterns of historical bias in the wider determinants of health against ethnic groups. This exacerbated mistrust in the healthcare system and government officials, with many believing that Covid-19 was another example of health disparity arising from marginalised ethnic groups suffering systemic discrimination. 

Dr Dev Acharya, Senior Lecturer-Public Health/Health Studies at the University, said: “Participants in this study identified that community members faced barriers in adherence to government guidelines and a lack of English proficiency particularly contributed to this. Despite translated documents being available, there was often an issue of illiteracy in the native language for some community members, with a number of participants mentioning the need for interpreters to verbally deliver guidance.” 

Fesani Mahmood, from University of Birmingham, said: “Participants also described overcrowding due to multigenerational living as a risk factor for the observed disparities and contributor to weak adherence of social distancing guidelines. Many alluded to poor housing conditions.’’ 

Dr Vibhu Paudyal, from University of Birmingham, said: “Addressing the root cause of disparities is imperative to mitigate current and future pandemics. These must be tackled by using appropriate and targeted public health interventions. Since the distinct ethnic minorities may face unique challenges due to cultural, economic and geographical variances, future research is needed to capture the specific barriers faced by each community.” 

The research has highlighted that there is an urgency for further study into the association between ethnicity and Covid-19.  Original data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) proposed that underlying or existing conditions in ethnic patients with Covid-19 could have contributed towards the disparity, however, the debate later incorporated wider social and structural disparities. Factors such as deprivation, living conditions and nature of employment were linked to higher morbidity and mortality in ethnic populations. 

Find the research study in full here: 

Find out more about the University's research in these publications:  

Anyone looking to study at the University of Wolverhampton should register for one of our forthcoming Open Days. 

For more information contact the University of Wolverhampton Corporate Communications Team on or Tony Moran, International Communications Manager, University of Birmingham on +44 (0)782 783 2312 or For out-of-hours enquiries, please call +44 (0) 7789 921 165.  


For more information please contact the Corporate Communications Team.

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