The UK government has been accused of “covering up vital recommendations” that could help prevent black, Asian and minority ethnic people dying from coronavirus. Concerns about censorship mounted after it was leaked that structural racism and social inequality, were left out of the government commissioned report. The disproportionate effects of Covid-19 on BAME (Black, Asian & minority ethnic) people worried officials that it could stoke racial tensions.
The report included findings that people of Bangladeshi heritage in England are twice as likely to die if they contract Covid-19 than white people, while other BAME groups face an increased risk of up to 50 per cent.
Over the past 30 years during all the time we have been told that class is dead something strange has been happening in the study of health. A generation of epidemiologists who study patterns of death (mortality) and illnesses (morbidity) have been obsessing about social inequality.
Journals such as the Lancet and the British Medical Journal have published pieces presenting the latest research that talks about the most basic inequalities and social structures. The concern has been to map the link between health and inequality in a descriptive sense: To show that those with a higher social situation suffer less ill health than those with a lower one.
I’m not sure about you but all this is nothing new and anyone who is remotely in touch with what is happening in the UK today could have told you about the health inequality that was staring us in the face long before this pandemic.
Stand outside any doctor’s surgery and you will see people carried there by inequalities. Their illnesses, major and minor, physical and mental, are markers of where they stand in society. When it comes to ill health, less is always more. The less your situation, the more likely you are to have a health problem.
Before I left Glasgow to work in Saudi Arabia in the early 1990s, I ran a large bakery in the east end of the city which suffered greatly from all forms of deprivation; poor health, unemployment, bad housing, lack of quality education, high crime, etc. At that time male life expectancy was 53 years in this part of Glasgow with males dying nine years before men born in India. A 15-minute drive away from my office in the affluent suburb of Lenzie men could expect to live 28 years longer.
We have known forever that your class position causes you to be more or less sick and to live more or less long. Since capitalism is at the root of class society, it is capitalism that makes you more or less ill. As Sir Michael Marmot, the leading UK epidemiologist says, “Inequalities in health between and within countries are avoidable.”
Premature death arises from three sources, infectious or communicable diseases such as typhus, typhoid, smallpox, cholera and Aids, non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, cancer, nutritional diseases and finally violence.
In poorer parts of the world such infectious diseases are a leading cause of death. Aids is one example, alongside diseases of poverty that flow from dirty water, inadequate sanitation and the like. This has now all changed in the developed world with the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Let’s wake up and smell reality and stop wasting taxpayer’s money on useless reports telling us what we already know. Like smoking, poverty kills.