New research to investigate COVID-19 and ethnicity

The Medical Research Council (MRC) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) have announced a multi-million-pound investment in six new projects to improve understanding of the links between COVID-19 and ethnicity.

These projects will seek to explain and mitigate the disproportionate death rate from COVID-19 among people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, including BAME health and social care workers.

Emerging evidence shows that, after taking account of age and other sociodemographic factors, BAME people are nearly twice as likely to die of COVID-19 than white people. There is an urgent need for more detailed data on why COVID-19 disproportionately impacts people from BAME backgrounds, building the essential evidence base needed to make recommendations to decision makers and protect the health of these groups.

The projects, which total £4.3 million worth of funding, will explore; the impact of the virus specifically on migrant and refugee groups; work with key voices within BAME communities to create targeted, digital health messages; the introduction of a new framework to ensure the representation of people from BAME backgrounds in clinical trials testing new treatments and vaccines for COVID-19; and the creation of one the UK’s largest COVID-19 cohorts.

One of the projects will establish a unique partnership between national healthcare organisations to specifically address the prevalence of COVID-19 among BAME healthcare workers who have been significantly overrepresented among the deaths from the virus. The mixed-method project will bring together existing datasets to calculate the risk of COVID-19 to all BAME healthcare workers and follow a group of these healthcare workers over the next 12 months to assess their physical and mental health, as well as engage directly with a smaller group of workers to gather qualitative data. 

This group of projects forms part of a rolling call for research proposals on COVID-19, jointly funded by UKRI’s MRC and NIHR in response to the pandemic, and includes research on treatments, vaccines and the spread of the virus, as well as specific calls on COVID-19 and ethnicity, and the wider impact of the virus on mental health.