COVID-19 links to Obesity

COVID-19, Obesity, and Communities of Color

“Obesity affects almost 50% of African-Americans and has been shown to be the strongest predictor for COVID-19 complications after age and is associated with severity of disease."

C. Virginia Fields, President of Black Health

Minority populations are more likely to lack adequate health insurance, hold jobs that increase their chances of becoming ill, and live in food deserts where healthy foods are difficult to find.

All of these factors increase a person’s likelihood of having obesity.

In turn, obesity increases the chances of a person catching the novel coronavirus and impacts the severity of their illness.

The factors that influence obesity also play a role in a person’s risk of contracting COVID-19.

Without adequate health insurance, individuals are more likely to have chronic conditions and less likely to seek care or testing when they have possibly contracted the virus.

Employment in the service industry or in positions that are considered “essential” also increase opportunities for exposure to the coronavirus.

And for those who are trying to eat a healthy diet, living in a food desert requires that they travel to access fresh fruits and vegetables, often taking public transportation that exposes them to more people who might have the virus.

Racial minorities are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 for numerous reasons

  • Inequities in access to and quality of care lead to poorer health overall and many chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and obesity, that influence their chances of getting COVID-19
  • For those who are trying to eat healthy, living in a food desert forces residents to travel to a grocery store, often by public transportation. This increases their chances of exposure to COVID-19.
  • Lack of insurance or low incomes make it less likely that minorities will get tested and treated for COVID-19. They face greater barriers to accessing care and may forgo testing or treatment for fear of the cost.

Obesity affects almost 50% of African Americans and 45% of Hispanic Americans, and has been shown to be the strongest predictor for COVID-19 complications. 

It is not only associated with severity of disease but also may predispose patients to becoming infected by COVID-19.

  • A study of hospitalized patients in the US found that of the 17,000 patients hospitalized, 29% were overweight and 48% had obesity.
  • There is also a linear relation between body mass index (BMI) and COVID-19 risk. Compared with patients who are not overweight or obese, those who were overweight had 1.84-fold odds of developing severe COVID-19, while those with obesity were at 3.40-fold odds of developing severe disease.
  • A meta-analysis of peer-reviewed papers covering 399,000 patients found that people with obesity who contracted COVID-19 were 113% more likely than healthy people to be admitted to the hospital, 74% more likely to end up in the ICU, and 48% more likely to die.
  • Physiological changes associated with obesity, including impaired immunity, chronic inflammation, reduced lung function, and blood that is more prone to clotting, worsen COVID-19.

In Partnership with:

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