Are black and Hispanic persons disproportionately affected by COVID-19 because of higher obesity rates?

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Surgery for obesity and related diseases : official journal of the American Society for Bariatric Surgery


BACKGROUND: On March 13, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Shortly after that, it was reported that mortality rates in New York City (NYC), the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States, were found to be significantly higher in black and Hispanic populations. OBJECTIVES: The aim of this article is to evaluate the mortality rates in NYC among the different ethnic groups and the different boroughs as they relate to the obesity rates to see whether this issue merits further evaluation. SETTING: NYC. METHODS: COVID-19 data were obtained from the official New York authorities in relation to total number of cases in the different boroughs of NYC. Age-adjusted COVID-19-related mortality rates of the different ethnic groups were also obtained. These data were cross-compared with historic community health data on obesity rates previously published and also obesity rates among the different ethnic groups in NYC. RESULTS: The 2 NYC boroughs that have the highest mortality rates are the Bronx (6%) and Brooklyn (5.4%). Both the Bronx and Brooklyn were also found to have the highest obesity rates at 32% and 27%, respectively. The 2 ethnic groups with the highest obesity rates (Hispanic and black) were also found to have the highest age-adjusted mortality rates per 100,000 compared with the other ethnic groups (22.8% and 19.8%, respectively). CONCLUSIONS: The Hispanic and black populations in NYC seem to be disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic because of the higher incidence of mortality rates. Obesity may have played a role in the high incidence of mortality in those ethnic groups.

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