On Saturday, COVID-19 restrictions across the state will relax after more than a year in place.

As the state moves towards recovery, many in healthcare — and beyond — are working to ensure that disparities exacerbated by the pandemic are fully understood.

It’s been widely documented how communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. The reasons behind this lie, in part, in comorbidities, which increase death and serious illness from COVID-19. Conditions like diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and asthma are more common in communities of color, particularly Black and Latinx households.

Dr. Monica Wang is the associate director of narrative at the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research. She’s also an associate professor of community health services at BU’s School of Public Health.

According to Wang, systemic racism, combined with social, environmental, and economic injustices have compromised the ability of people within communities of color to be healthy and access healthcare in the same ways as other patients. This combined with discrimination and bias heighten stress levels, further compromising health.

“When all of that combines together, we have multiple levels of discrimination and we have multiple generations where people have psychologically embodied these injustices,” said Wang. “Racism and experiences of racism is a chronic stressor. And studies have shown that when you experience chronic stress, that has a physiological impact on your body."

According to Wang, the work in breaking this cycle involves fixes beyond healthcare, like taking a look at how a person lives, works, and plays. She adds that a good place to start is collecting data and then studying the disparities in that data.

For Dr. Sabrina Assoumou, an infectious diseases physician at Boston Medical Center, fixing these disparities is also about access.

“What access to healthcare provides you is a long term relationship with a physician to address a lot of the preexisting conditions that have made certain patients more likely to have complications from COVID,” said Assoumou. “For instance, if a patient has diabetes, high blood pressure or heart condition, these are conditions that require long term management. And by providing access to healthcare we allow patients to have a therapeutic relationship with a physician who is able to take care of these conditions so that if someone were to have COVID they’re less likely to have some of the complications and die from it.”

Click on the audio player above to listen to the full episode.


Dr. Monica Wang - 2:25
Dr. Sabrina Assoumou - 23:37