• Sofia Eugeniou

Poor housing is the health risk, not being BAME

A report by Centric Lab has addressed that it is poorly designed and planned communities that heighten the risk of health issues among black and minority ethnic people.


It is no surprise by now that the Covid-19 pandemic is disproportionately hitting members of the British BAME population harder than their white counterparts, and it is people from poorer ethnic minority communities who are most likely to be hospitalised or die as a result of the disease.


According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), black Britons are almost twice as likely to die from Covid-19 than white Britons, while individuals with Bangladeshi and Pakistani backgrounds are 1.7 times more likely to die than white people.


Systemic racism and inequality have dominated much of the conversation around this health trend, of which both issues are visible in the planning and designing of environments that disproportionately host black and minority ethnic people.


The risk of catching and suffering more badly from infectious disease is heightened when living in badly planned environments. Such environments include places with high levels of environmental pollutants, inadequate housing infrastructure, low access to nourishing food, inadequate urban infrastructure, poor access to public transport, and poor access to adequate health services and resources.

Image credit: CapX

Correlations have been made that show poorer physical and mental is greater among members of the BAME community from low-income households who are often forced to live in these badly designed environments.


According to Araceli Camargo, a cognitive neuroscientist and director and co-founder of Centric Lab: "Poverty is supported by racism, executed through urban systems and experienced through poor health".


In the UK, black and minority Asian populations are more likely to live in the 10 per cent of neighbourhoods most deprived in relation to living environment - it is structural racism that cements these patterns in housing among specific ethnic groups, i.e. social forces, institutions, ideologies and policies that interact with one another to generate and reinforce inequities among different ethnic groups.


Understanding the role that neighbourhoods play in health allows for a systemic solution - frameworks that assess the physical environments people inhabit as well as the experiences afforded by those environments, can help us do this.


Key worries that surround poorly designed living environments for lower-income BAME communities include stress. The longer someone lives in a polluted environment, the longer the stress response will engage in an individual.


While stress is a key element for survival, too much stress can be detrimental. Stress that lingers in the immune system for extended periods of time can cause high blood pressure, fatigue, depression, anxiety and even heart disease. All of these stress responses increase one's vulnerability to disease, such as the new coronavirus.


Without a serious change in policy and understanding of how living environments impact individuals, particularly for BAME communities who disproportionately live in badly designed environments, the strong relationship between deprivation and death from Covid-19 will continue to plague the UK population, and among populations across the world.


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