More COVID deaths in counties with lower internet access

March 18, 2022

U.S. communities with limited internet access reported higher COVID-19 death rates during the first year of the pandemic, according to a recent study published in JAMA Network Open.

Between 2.4 and six deaths per 100,000 people could have been prevented, the researchers estimate, depending on whether they were in rural, suburban or urban areas.

“More awareness is needed about the vital asset of technological access to reliable information, remote working, educational opportunities, resource purchasing and/or social community,” the study authors wrote.

“Populations with limited internet access remain underexposed and often excluded in pandemic research,” she added.

The finding points to unequal Internet access in the US, according to Vox, with gaps often associated with older adults, lower incomes and education, minorities and rural areas. Many of the country’s most marginalized communities have the fewest, most expensive, and lowest-quality Internet service provider choices, which could reduce access to information and health services such as telemedicine.

In the recent study, researchers at the University of Chicago analyzed death data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more than 3,100 counties between January 2020 and February 2021. They looked at the racial and spatial disparities in the death rates from COVID-19, as well as social determinants of health, such as location, socio-economic status and mobility.

The research team identified counties with a high concentration of a single racial and ethnic population and a high level of COVID-19 deaths as “concentrated counties with longitudinal impact”. They found that several aspects of the social determinants of health were “uniquely associated” with higher COVID-19 death rates among black or African American communities, Hispanic or Latinx communities, and non-Hispanic white communities.

For example, counties with high COVID-19 deaths in large black or African American populations were spread across urban, suburban and rural areas and experienced several disadvantages, the study authors wrote, including higher income inequality and more avoidable hospital stays.

Most counties with high COVID-19 death rates among large Hispanic or Latinx populations were in urban areas, and many had a high percentage of people without health insurance.

Counties with high COVID-19 death rates in non-Hispanic white populations tended to be in rural areas with limited access to health care and higher numbers of older adults.

The findings also varied by location. In urban areas, high death rates were associated with a high percentage of people of working age without health insurance and essential workers who were more likely to be exposed to the coronavirus.

“This finding is consistent with previous findings in Latinx adults who were more likely to be at risk for contracting COVID-19 due to work requirements and were hesitant to enter a hospital due to economic and immigration problems,” the study authors wrote.

In suburban areas, higher death rates have been associated with lower socioeconomic status and reduced mobility, usually indicating higher poverty rates and higher rates of older adults and people with disabilities.

In rural areas, higher COVID-19 death rates were associated with more preventable hospital stays and reduced mobility.

Limited Internet access was a major factor in all communities, the study authors wrote. In rural areas, a 1% decline in a province’s Internet access was associated with 2.4 deaths per 100,000 people. In urban areas, a decline in access was associated with six deaths per 100,000 people.

“For future public health interventions and policy proposals, this analysis provides a way to apply a chisel rather than a hammer in identifying, prioritizing and addressing social factors associated with entrenched racial and ethnic health inequalities. groups and spaces,” the study authors said. wrote.

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