August 2020: In the News

COVID Inequities

submitted by Odichinma Akosionu, MPH, and Tetyana P. Shippee

Although Minnesota is known for good quality of care and health outcomes for older adults, the state ranks high in racial disparities for income, education, and homeownership rates between Black and white residents. Our research shows that Black, Indigenous, and other residents of color also report significantly lower quality of life in Minnesota nursing homes. These disparities have increased over time and continue to be significant, even when we account for health and other factors. 

In short, racial inequities are due to systemic and environmental racism. COVID-19 has exacerbated these pre-existing disparities. 

Much like other states, people of color have higher rates of COVID-19 compared to the overall population. In Minnesota, Black, Latinx and Asian Americans who are 65 years and older have the highest incidence of COVID-19 cases. We believe policymakers need to share data to learn about and address the system-level issues that drive disparities.

We recommend a few steps to directly address COVID-19 case intensity and long-term impact: 

1) Prioritize testing and protective equipment in nursing homes and communities with a high proportion of people who are Black, Indigenous and other communities of color (BIPOC).

2) Immediately address and improve conditions for long-term care workers, especially direct care workers, like nursing home aides who do the bulk of hands-on caring for older adults. The majority of these caregivers are BIPOC. 

3) Re-examine policies that have resulted in persistent racial disparities in long-term care, including funding for facilities with a high number of BIPOC patients. 

Odichinma Akosionu, MPH, and Tetyana P. Shippee, PhD, are part of a team at the University of Minnesota that co-published COVID-19 disparities research in the Journal of Aging & Social Policy (May 2020) 

Ahem, Bodies Do Differ

The healthcare industry continues to play catchup in understanding how to better serve female bodies. “There is now more than 20 years of evidence that shows female physiology is quite different from males,” said Alicia Chong, founder and CEO, at Bloomer Tech. “Yet, even now, most of the devices and treatments are designed around male physiology.” 

The pandemic has raised awareness of the importance of data in understanding how gender, race/ethnicity, income, geography, and other characteristics influence the occurrence of a disease and its outcomes. Data suggests, for example, that AFAB (assigned female at birth) people have a less severe response to the new coronavirus. Researchers are looking at the role female sex hormones may play in immunity.

“Sometimes, when we think about women’s health, we think just of reproductive health and breast cancer, but it’s so much more,” said Chong. Heart disease strikes more AFAB people than AMAB (assigned male at birth) and is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined.

Conservative estimates indicate that about 80 percent of the people with autoimmune diseases are AFAB. The incidence rate is dramatically higher for AFAB people of color and low-income people.

Source: Forbes

When You Are Expecting

As COVID-19 started its spread, nurse-midwife leaders in Minnesota started virtual weekly meetings to discuss how care was changing. Expecting patients had less time with providers during wellness checks, and partners were not allowed to attend. In-person prenatal classes were suspended. To address the need, nursing students created educational videos to prepare parents for pregnancy, labor, postpartum and newborn care. “Having A Baby: Prenatal and Newborn Care Education” includes 60 free videos of educational material.


August 18, 1920

Minnesota has been a national proving ground for many feminist reforms. The first battered women’s shelter in the country was established here. The state was the first to attempt to set standards at establishing pay equity for women. The “Remembering” section on this website includes a 1989 story about Minnesota’s early attempt at inclusive education. The state enacted women’s right to vote a year before it became a national mandate (for white women) in the 19th amendment on August 18, 1920.


Have You Voted?

Voting by mail with an absentee ballot is legal in Minnesota for anyone registered to vote who can provide an email address and an identification number. There are options for people without an email address or an identification number to request a ballot. A different system applies for military and overseas voters. You can apply for the August 11 primary and the Nov. 3 U.S. election.


Do You Need Testing?

The CARES Act requires that COVID-19 testing is covered without cost-sharing. This applies to the test only, not office visits. Some insurance carriers waive in-network visits.