Black Health: New report shows interconnected pandemics of COVID-19, racism have hit black families the hardest

Black Health: New report shows interconnected pandemics of COVID-19, racism have hit black families the hardest

BCN Staff – June 23, 2021 — The one constant before, during, and most likely, after the pandemic is racism and ongoing discrimination, so says a new Black-led released on Tuesday (June 22).

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Boston University are shining a rare spotlight on the compounded factors that contribute to the widespread devastation and racial trauma experienced by Black families during the pandemic. The report, “BLACK PARENT VOICES: Resilience in the Face of the Two Pandemics—COVID-19 and Racism” was recently released by the Researchers Investigating Sociocultural Equity and Race Network (RISER).

RISER is a network of senior, mid-level, and junior scholars working together to conduct applied child development research focused on the positive development of Black children. This research-to-policy information is disseminated with the goal of dismantling education and health disparities and to promote the thriving and academic success of children.

The groundbreaking study examines the historical and contemporary inequities that Black families and communities have experienced in their daily lives. It also provides a comprehensive analysis of how the pandemic is affecting Black families’ experiences with racism and discrimination, financial security, mental health, wellbeing, early care, and education options.

The RISER Network is calling for a comprehensive approach in policy development and relief for Black families and communities which have been disproportionately impacted by police violence, the global coronavirus pandemic and economic crisis. The network’s research reveals how racism is an environmental construct that drives health and education disparities among children ages zero to eight years old.

“Through this research, we hope to shift mindsets about Black families’ survival and resilience amid the pandemic, despite the systems of inequities that are working against them,” said RISER Network Co-founder Iheoma U. Iruka, Ph.D. “It’s important to understand that whatever happens with Black families is also happening with all families, thus creating the impetus for a unified push for inclusive, anti-racist policies that will improve lives.”

“Black families voices and lives matter, and the stories that were brought to light in this report clearly illustrate the collective trauma and suffering they’re enduring during the current health and economic crisis,” RISER Network Co-Founder Stephanie M. Curenton, Ph.D. said.  “This study will be part of a larger continuum of high-quality, scientific data around Black families that addresses the structural issues they’ve faced before and during the pandemic.”

Iheoma U. Iruka, Ph.D, co-founder, RISER Network

The RISER Network’s full report explores quality of life, racial trauma, and socio-economic issues in greater detail. It includes action items and first-hand accounts from Black families. The report surveyed Black parents on a weekly basis from May to Dec. 2020 and includes data from the RAPID-EC project at the University of Oregon. The network is currently funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation via a grant to Boston University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was seeded by a grant from the Foundation for Child Development.

According to the report’s executive summary, COVID-19 pandemic is affecting Black families’ experiences with racism and discrimination, financial security/ material hardship, health and mental health, and early care and education options. The data in the report is culled from 768 Black families in the United States with an average household income of $69,286, which is slightly higher than the U.S. median household income for 2019 of $68,703 but significantly higher than the 2019 median income for Black households of $45,438, based on U.S. Census Bureau data.

The key findings for this report are as follows:

• Racism and discrimination have an overarching negative impact on the experiences and lives of Black children and their families, and this negative impact has continued throughout the pandemic.

• Black families are experiencing high levels of economic instability regardless of household income level.

• Black parents delayed health care visits primarily due to concerns about being exposed to coronavirus and an inability to find an early care and education option while they attended their health visit.

• Black families use a variety of paid and unpaid early care and education options, but most families largely stopped in-person participation at the beginning of the pandemic.

Key policy recommendations from the report are:

• There is an urgent need for anti-racist policies and strategies that promote positive outcomes and opportunities for Black families and children.

• Financial tools are needed to stabilize families, while racial audits will ensure that new policies and initiatives are better targeted to Black families and are addressing historical and contemporary challenges.

• Different models of health care services, including telehealth and mobile health care, must implement anti-racist and culturally appropriate strategies that promote radical healing.

• It is critical to develop policies that prioritize in-person learning for Black children, while also providing extended paid sick and personal leave and flexible schedules for parents who are the sole providers for their children.

The 13-page report can be downloaded in its entirety using the link as follows from the RISER Network’s website.

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