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New research to help design health policies to lessen the effect of the pandemic on minorities

New research to uncover social, economic and cultural factors affecting ethnic minority groups during COVID-19 (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

By: Pramod Thomas

THE UK has started four new projects to find out the reasons why people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds have been disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Findings from these projects will be used to design health interventions, policy recommendations, and other measures to help lessen the effect of the pandemic on these groups across the UK, a statement said.

The UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) via the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) will provide £4.5 million for these initiatives, which will run for 18 months.

With this, the total government research funding to understand ethnicity and Covid-19 has reached £8.8m.

Researchers led by a team from the University of Manchester will assess the impact of Covid-19 on ethnic minority communities across a broad spectrum of issues including health, housing, welfare, education, employment and policing. A consortium led by the University of Leeds will investigate the combined impact of Covid-19 and racial discrimination on wellbeing and resilience across BAME families and communities in the UK.

Two smaller projects will focus on the effects of Covid-19 on Birmingham’s ethnic minority Muslim communities, and the impact of Covid-19 on mental health in BAME communities.

“Covid-19 has shone a light on the inequalities facing our society, with evidence showing that people from BAME backgrounds are more severely impacted by this dreadful disease,” said Amanda Solloway, minister for science, research & innovation . “Not only does science and research offer us a way out of this pandemic, but it will also help us to understand why these disparities exist.”

During the first wave of the pandemic last year, people from some ethnic minority groups, particularly black and Asian, were more likely to be infected, diagnosed and die than people in white ethnic groups.

Minority ethnic groups are also among those who have faced the biggest labour market shocks as a result of the pandemic, and have experienced above average increases in mental distress.

Minister for innovation, Lord Bethell, said: “BAME communities have been hard hit by Covid-19 and we need to better understand the reasons for this. We need impactful policy backed by government action and we need to work with community leaders to tackle these problems.”

UKRI chief executive, Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, said: “Emerging evidence suggests that people from BAME backgrounds have experienced the hardest economic shocks. We cannot ignore the social, cultural and economic factors that have shaped the experiences of BAME communities throughout the pandemic.

“It is crucial that we understand the depth and breadth of the impacts of these factors so that we can take action to alleviate the consequences for these communities.”

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