07 Mar Weill Cornell Medicine Studies Racial Differences in Long COVID
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dhruv Khullar, M.D., M.P.P.
Director of Policy Dissemination
Physicians Foundation Center for Physician Practice and Leadership
Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Economics
Weill Cornell Medicine, NYC
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: From prior research, we know that there are racial/ethnic differences in the acute impact of COVID-19, including higher rates of hospitalization and death among Black and Hispanic individuals compared to white individuals. Less is known about whether there are differences in the rates or types of long COVID by race and ethnicity.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
Response: In our research, we studied individuals who were diagnosed with COVID-19 between March 2020 and October 2021. We found significantly different rates of potential long COVID symptoms and conditions by race/ethnicity, both for people who were hospitalized during their initial illness and for people who were not.
In general, Black and Hispanic individuals had higher odds of being diagnosed with a range of potential long COVID symptoms and conditions in the months after their initial illness. For example, compared to white patients who’d been hospitalized for COVID-19, Black patients had about twice the odds of being diagnosed with diabetes, and one-and-a-half times the odds of being diagnosed with chest pain. Some differences ran in the opposite direction—for example, white patients were diagnosed with encephalopathy at higher rates—but the overall burden of long COVID seemed to be higher among Black and Hispanic patients.
It’s important to note that these findings come with some caveats. Because we analyzed data from electronic health records, it’s possible that some of the observed differences reflect the different ways in which doctors code new conditions or symptoms for various patient populations, or reflect coding of previously undiagnosed conditions (as opposed to conditions that arose as a result of COVID-19). Furthermore, we studied patients who received care in New York City, and it’s possible that the disparities we observed differ in other parts of the country. Finally, we studied patients who were diagnosed with COVID-19 in the first year and a half of the pandemic; rates of long COVID may evolve over time.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a results of this study?
Response: Clinicians should be aware of the different ways that long COVID symptoms and conditions can present, especially across different racial/ethnic groups. Future research should aim to understand the mechanisms that could be driving racial/ethnic disparities. We should strive for diverse enrollment in clinical trials to ensure an equitable response to long COVID.
This study was supported by the NIH RECOVER program.
Dhruv Khullar, Yongkang Zhang, Chengxi Zang, Zhenxing Xu, Fei Wang, Mark G. Weiner, Thomas W. Carton, Russell L. Rothman, Jason P. Block, Rainu Kaushal. Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Post-acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 Infection in New York: an EHR-Based Cohort Study from the RECOVER Program. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 2023; DOI: 10.1007/s11606-022-07997-1
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