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COVID-19 Deaths and the Impact of Health Disparities, Hospital Characteristics, Community, Social Distancing, and Health System Competition

, , D. Rob Haley, , Aurora Tafili,
Published: 1 December 2022

Abstract: The United States has one of the highest cumulative mortalities of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and has reached 1 million deaths as of May 19th, 2022. Understanding which community and hospital factors contributed to disparities in COVID-19 mortality is important to inform public health strategies. This study aimed to explore the potential relationship between hospital service area (1) community (ie, health professional shortage areas, market competition, and uninsured percentage) and (2) hospital (ie, teaching, system, and ownership status) characteristics (2013–2018) on publicly available COVD-19 (February to October 2020) mortality data. The study included 2514 health service areas and used multilevel mixed-effects linear model to account for the multilevel data structure. The outcome measure was the number of COVID-19 deaths. This study found that public health, as opposed to acute care provision, was associated with community health and, ultimately, COVID-19 mortality. The study found that population characteristics including more uninsured greater proportion of those over 65 years, more diverse populations, and larger populations were all associated with a higher rate of death. In addition, communities with fewer hospitals were associated with a lower rate of death. When considering region in the United States, the west region showed a higher rate of death than all other regions. The association between some community characteristics and higher COVID-19 deaths demonstrated that access to health care, either for COVID-19 infection or worse health from higher disease burden, is strongly associated with COVID-19 deaths. Thus, to be better prepared for potential future pandemics, a greater emphasis on public health infrastructure is needed.
Keywords: COVID-19 / disparity / hospital / community / hospital service area / mortality

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