In the United States, over 115,000 deaths have been attributed to COVID-19, and morbidity and mortality rates continue to rise. Racial and ethnic minority groups are disproportionately impacted by the disease, according to preliminary data.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp receives information about a community COVID-19 testing site from Public Health District 2 Director, Dr. Pamela Logan (right), in the parking lot of La Flor de Jalisco #2 during a visit to Gainesville, Friday, May 15, 2020.
A recent data analysis in the CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from COVID-19 patients at six metropolitan Atlanta hospitals and associated outpatient clinics found that being male, older, black, obese, having diabetes, not having insurance and smoking were independently associated with hospitalization.
Understanding how the pandemic impacts all populations and building inclusive strategies is dependent on having accurate and comprehensive information to make good decisions, said Judy Monroe, president and CEO of the CDC Foundation.
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Computer scientists and engineers from Google will spend the next six months building a system that will draw data from local, county, state and federal sources the moment it is uploaded to databases and run it through an algorithm that will generate data on race and ethnicity.
The platform will also include data to address questions such as which communities are receiving test kits, if mobile testing is available, how triage nurses are deciding which patients to admit to hospitals, and if treatment drugs are being distributed equitably, Dawes said.
Atlanta Police Department officers distribute masks to the homeless at Hurt Park downtown on Friday, April 24, 2020.
To make sure the platform lives on after the pandemic has ended, it will also include data on the underlying risk factors of COVID-19 and examine the conditions creating those factors. In Atlanta, for example, residents of Mechanicsville have the lowest life expectancy of any residents in large part due to poor air quality from the highway that cuts through the community, Dawes said.
The ability to align social determinants of health with the political determinants can help reveal how policies have reduced or increased health inequities. “It is the first time we will be able to do something meaningful around this,” Dawes said.
The platform, which Dawes hopes to debut as early as September, will also have a mental health component, which can be used to identify hot spots for suicide or depression, for example. To make sure the data has impact, the task force will work with members of the community to engage and train them in advocacy work. “These are multi-systemic inequities. We want (communities) to understand what it is and address them,” Dawes said.