Coronavirus Chronicles — For Minorities, a Bleak Picture

Bleak Landscape

Once the pandemic had worked up a full head of steam, it was not long before trite reality showed up in familiar ways. Add up every factor that negatively affects minority communities in “normal” times — economic disadvantage, single parenting, overcrowded living spaces, terrible working conditions, food deserts, and many more.

All have been worsened, and the people who suffer the most are the essential workers, who just can’t catch a break. And as we have seen, many of the disruptions caused by the pandemic also happen to be “obesity villains​,” in other words, events, experiences, or conditions that bear some responsibility for the ever-worsening obesity epidemic.

A bad precedent

Ever since the word “coronavirus” was first heard, the public has been told that handwashing is a vital component in the wall of protection we hope to build around ourselves. For a really extreme example of how health inequities can cause havoc, Childhood Obesity News looked at the Navajo Nation.

We’re talking about a giant piece of land with only 175,000 residents, with a housing shortage and several generations crowded into small living spaces, and yet with vast distances between them. COVID-19 snuck in and had itself a good old time. In April of 2020, Debra Utacia Krol wrote for, “As a percentage of the population, the nation’s infection rate is nearly 10 times that of Arizona’s.”

Nobody even has an accurate picture of how bad the situation is:

At least 15% of Navajo Nation homes have no running water at all… The real number may be 40% to 50%.

It is not only water, Krol reported, that there isn’t enough of. A frequent lack of sewers, electricity and internet all contribute to the detriment of public health. Most urban minority neighborhoods are not quite so disadvantaged, but conditions can be pretty rough.​

One of these things is not like the other

It quickly became obvious that non-white ethnic groups were having a rougher time of it, and they still are. A year ago, this was especially true of children, and it still is.

News began to circulate concerning the horrendous complications that the very young can develop — even after they seem to have recovered from the disease. This is “long COVID,” but there is speculation that the virus might also somehow be responsible for Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children ​(MIS-C), or even that they might be the same disorder.

MIS-C is statistically rare, but terrible when it strikes, and we have no guarantee that it will not find a way to become King of Diseases by this time next year. We are in uncharted territory, and so far, it doesn’t look good. Pediatrician Bo Stapler, M.D., speaks of two studies published by the New England Journal of Medicine:

According to the U.S. study, the average age of children with MIS-C was eight, and 62% were male. Both NEJM investigations found minorities to be disproportionately affected. The authors write, “The percentage of patients in our series who were Black or Hispanic was also higher than in the U.S. population overall.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Navajo Nation’s water shortage may be supporting COVID-19 spread,”, 04/28/20
Source: “The Latest on the Mysterious Inflammatory Syndrome in Children,”, 07/07/20
Image by David Evers/CC BY 2.0

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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