UKRI offers £5m for research into Covid-19 impact on BAME people

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Experts have made a fresh call for proposals to close the gaps in research on the impact of Covid-19 on black and minority ethnic groups.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is offering up to £5 million in funding for one or two ideas that address the vulnerability of minority ethnic groups to Covid-19, or emerging social economic and cultural impacts of the pandemic on these groups.

“Research that explores the causes and dynamics of these vulnerabilities and impacts, and their ethical and broader socio-economic and cultural dimensions, is urgently required to build understanding of measures that might help mitigate poor outcomes,” a statement from UKRI said.

“This is particularly important as the UK eases Covid-related restrictions and in the event of any resurgence of the disease nationally or in local ‘hotspots’.”

The government has been heavily criticised for failing to adequately collect black and minority ethnic (BAME) data relating to Covid-19.

Following a rapid review of how gender and ethnicity impact health outcomes for Covid-19, Public Health England (PHE) called for collection and recording of ethnicity data to be mandated as part of routine NHS and social care data collection.

Based on feedback from a number of stakeholder engagements with more than 4,000 people, the review concluded better data is needed “to deepen our understanding of the wider socio-economic determinants, improve data recording of faith and ethnicity and greater use of community participatory research”.

PHE originally failed to include actionable recommendations in its rapid review, commissioned in May, despite the review being aimed at establishing the factors impacting the number of Covid-19 cases and severity of the outcomes for different groups within the population.

The findings, published on 2 June, failed to address how the data could be used to address health inequalities, despite finding BAME people were twice as likely to die from Covid-19.

People of Bangladeshi ethnicity had around twice the risk of death compared to white British people.

Other BAME groups were disproportionately affected, with people of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, other Asian, Caribbean and other black ethnicity having a 10-50% higher risk of death from the virus compared to white people.

The Shuri Network, the first network for BAME women in digital health roles, previously warned the analysis of BAME data must not become a “hot potato too difficult to confront” and called for “stronger focus” from healthcare leaders to address inequalities highlighted in the data.

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