For Urban Poor, the Coronavirus Complicates Existing Health Risks

Articles | March 19 2020
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By John Eligon

OAKLAND, Calif. — Several days had passed since the congestion in her chest left her feeling suffocated and racing to the emergency room. Now, Lisa McClendon, 64, was trying to level with her respiratory therapist about why her asthma had flared up again.

In recent months, she explained from her cramped studio apartment in downtown Oakland, Calif., the money from Uber driving had not been enough to buy the nutritional supplements that help to keep her asthma under control. The therapist, Rochelle Allen, heard things like this often. She mostly treats African-Americans like Ms. McClendon who struggle to make ends meet, and whose health problems can be exacerbated by social factors like a lack of insurance, healthy food options and recreational opportunities.

But Ms. Allen also saw another culprit in the asthma attack.

“You have to use your controller,” she said, waving an orange inhaler that Ms. McClendon was not using twice a day as instructed.

“I’m working to get off of these drugs,” Ms. McClendon said, adding that she preferred natural remedies. “I don’t trust the medical establishment.”

Even in the best of times, low-income minorities can face daunting health and medical issues. Many public health experts now fear a potentially dire situation: If the novel coronavirus becomes an epidemic in the United States, it could exacerbate the vulnerabilities of resource-strapped minorities and cause devastating consequences. (Read more)