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Coronavirus and Urban Health

The Urban Health Collaborative's Response to Coronavirus

In cities around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting urban life dramatically. People have become scarce, separated and apart from each other, and can be seen clad in masks and gloves. Governments and residents are facing the loss of lives and livelihoods. Yet there have been signs of innovation, compassion, and action to protect health in cities as we discover how our health is connected to the health of our neighbors.

Health in cities has always been a focus of the Urban Health Collaborative and we are actively working to address how COVID-19 is impacting the health of residents in urban areas as well as the implications of the pandemic for health equity. Urban Health Collaborative researchers have been speaking with multiple media sources to address and provide expert commentary on the coronavirus as well as continuing to create resources and content for the public health community. This page serves as an up-to-date guide on UHC news, analysis and other work surrounding coronavirus and urban health..

Webinars and Courses

Confronting Organizational Stress as the Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic Unfold

The course, Confronting Organizational Stress as the Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic Unfold is co-sponsored by West Philly Promise Neighborhood (WPPN) and is being hosted as part of the UHC coronavirus response to support community organizations adapting to the pandemic. The course content will be available to registered participants for two months to complete at their own pace. Registration for this course is open until June 10 and for a reduced price of $100. 

Registration for this course is now closed.

Instructor:

  • Sandra Bloom, MD, associate professor, Dornsife School of Public Health, Drexel University

Emerging Issues in the Coronavirus Pandemic

The Urban Health Collaborative and Drexel University's Dornsife School of Public Health experts joined together for an insightful discussion on the implications of the coronavirus pandemic for health in cities.

Watch this webinar here!

Panelists:

  • Usama Bilal, PhD, MPH, MD, assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Dornsife and Urban Health Collaborative
  • Jen Kolker, MPH, clinical professor, associate dean for Public Health Practice, Health Management and Policy at Dornsife

Moderator:
Gina Lovasi, PhD, MPH, associate professor of urban health at Dornsife and co-director of the Urban Health Collaborative

Learn more about the Dornsife Webinar Series

UHC News

Cities, Health Equity, and COVID-19 - Ana V. Diez Roux, MD, PhD, MPH

"Today over 4 billion people (more than half of the world’s population) live in cities. Cities are growing rapidly even in parts of the world that were largely rural just a few decades ago. But cities can be good or bad for health depending on how cities are organized and governed. Today the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the impact of urban living and urban policies on health like never before. Cities are, by definition, dense: a lot of people living together and interacting, socializing constantly. This is what gives cities their energy, their drive, their creativity. In the case of transmissible respiratory diseases like COVID-19 it is also why disease transmission can be accelerated in cities."

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Our Pandemic and Our Planet - Gina Lovasi, PhD, MPH

"Today over 4 billion people (more than half of the world’s population) live in cities. Cities are growing rapidly even in parts of the world that were largely rural just a few decades ago. But cities can be good or bad for health depending on how cities are organized and governed. Today the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the impact of urban living and urban policies on health like never before. Cities are, by definition, dense: a lot of people living together and interacting, socializing constantly. This is what gives cities their energy, their drive, their creativity. In the case of transmissible respiratory diseases like COVID-19 it is also why disease transmission can be accelerated in cities."

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COVID-19 and Latin American cities - Usama Bilal, MD, PhD, MPH

Latin America is not just highly urbanized. It is also one of the most economically unequal regions in the world: 8 of the world’s 20 most unequal countries are in Latin America. Latin America also has wide health inequalities in its largest cities, with life expectancy disparities between the areas with the highest and lowest life expectancy being above 10 years in several cities. The role of economic and health inequalities has not been frequently discussed in the context of the pandemic. Still, these inequalities may prove vital to understanding the causes and consequences of the pandemic in Latin American countries and cities.

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Starting My Co-op During a Pandemic - Ben Murray

Working with UHC during the COVID-19 pandemic has truly brought everything into perspective for me. I realized how important collaboration is to both urban health and keeping populations safe. It is a privilege to be able to work in such an important field for my co-op, and I look forward to what I will learn about communications and urban health.

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Creating a COVID-19 Urban Vulnerability Tool

Drexel University’s Rapid Response and Development Fund was designated for urgent action, short-term projects focused on COVID-19 related health and health-related research and development. They received over 40 submissions. Amy Carroll-Scott, PhD, MPH, policy and community engagement core co-lead, and Félice Lê-Scherban, PhD, MPH, training core co-lead, were one of seventeen awardees.

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Racial and Economic Health Inequities and COVID-19

As COVID-19 spreads across the globe, researchers in public health who have been examining health inequities since before the pandemic are now being called upon to testify to the deepening consequences of inequality. Sharrelle Barber, ScD, MPH, assistant research professor at the UHC and the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, is one of these public health researchers speaking to multiple media outlets on the health inequities being highlighted during this pandemic.

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Introducing the Philadelphia COVID-19 Vulnerability Tool

The Philadelphia COVID-19 Vulnerability Dashboard is an interactive online data tool designed to inform COVID-19 response and recovery efforts in the hardest-hit Philadelphia neighborhoods. The dashboard displays neighborhood-level indicators prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in order to demonstrate communities’ vulnerability to the immediate and longer-term effects off the crisis.

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UHC in the Media

Doctor calls for changes as African Americans account for a disproportionate number of COVID-19 deaths

Sharrelle Barber, ScD, MPH, an assistant research professor at the UHC, was quoted in a WVUE-TV (FOX- New Orleans) segment that also aired on WAFB-TV (CBS- Baton Rouge, Louisiana) about African Americans accounting for a disproportionate number of COVID-19 deaths.

View Story (WVUE) - 7.21.20
View Story (WAFB) - 7.21.20

What ‘Racism Is a Public Health Issue’ Means

Sharrelle Barber, ScD, MPH, an assistant research professor at the UHC, was quoted in a July 20 Smithsonian article about how the coronavirus has disproportionally sickened and killed marginalized communities.

View Story (Smithsonian) - 7.20.20

Study of 17 Million Identifies Crucial Risk Factors for Coronavirus Deaths

Sharrelle Barber, ScD, MPH, an assistant research professor at the UHC, and Usama Bilal, PhD, MD, MPH, an assistant professor at the UHC, were quoted in a July 8 New York Times article about a new study showing that race, ethnicity, age and gender can raise a person’s chances of dying from COVID-19.

View Story (The New York Times) - 6.8.20

Latino, Black neighborhoods struggle with test disparities

Usama Bilal, PhD, MD, MPH, an assistant professor at the UHC, was quoted in a July 6 Associated Press article about COVID-19 testing disparities. The article ran in the Washington Post, PBS Newshour, The Philadelphia Tribune and other news outlets nationwide.

View Story (The Washington Post) - 6.6.20

Will Covid-19 Be a Turning Point in the Fight Against Racial Disparities in Health Care?

Sharrelle Barber, ScD, MPH, an assistant research professor in the Dornsife School of Public Health, was quoted in a June 1 WHYY-Radio segment about some of the factors that led to current protests over racial inequality. Barber was also quoted in a June 1 story in The Nation about COVID-19’s impact on the longstanding fight against racial disparities in health care.

View Story (WHYY) – 6.1.20
View Story (The Nation) – 6.1.20

Plans to move Philly to ‘yellow’ forge ahead

Sharrelle Barber, ScD, MPH, an assistant research professor in the Dornsife School of Public Health, was quoted in a June 2 WHYY story about continued plans in Philadelphia to move to the ‘yellow’ phase of re-opening on Friday.

View Story (WHYY) – 6.2.20
View Story (Tribune) – 6.2.20

Will Covid-19 Be a Turning Point in the Fight Against Racial Disparities in Health Care?

Usama Bilal, MD, PhD, MPH, an assistant professor at the UHC, was quoted in a June 1 story in The Nation about about whether COVID-19 will be a turning point in the fight against racial disparities in health care.

View Story (The Nation) – 6.1.20

New Pandemic, Old Story

Ana V. Diez Roux, MD, PhD, dean and distinguished university professor of the Dornsife School of Public Health, authored a May 5 "Field Notes'" commentary in The Brooklyn Rail about how the pandemic has exposed the links between social, economic and political systems we have created for ourselves and our health.

View Story (Inquirer) - 5.12.20 View Story (Brooklyn Rail) - 5.7.20

How Many Lives Have Stay-at-Home Orders Saved?

Amy Carroll-Scott, PhD, MPH, Policy and Community Engagement Core Co-lead, and Jennifer Kolker, MPH, Policy and Community Engagement Core Co-lead, at the UHC, spoke about estimates about how many lives may have been saved through stay-at-home orders. 

View Story (Inquirer) - 5.12.20
View Story (East Bay Times) - 5.12.20
View Story (CBS, Austin) - 5.12.20
View Story (ABC, Austin) - 5.13.20
View Story (FOX, Austin) - 5.13.20
View Story (CW Philly) - 5.13.20
View Story (Mercury News) – 5.12.20

View Story (East Bay Times) – 5.12.20
View Story (Austin American-Statesman) – 5.12.20

View Story (KXAN-TV) – 5.13.20
View Story (KXAN) – 5.13.20

View Story (KLBJ-FM) – 5.13.20
View Story (Patch) – 5.14.20

View Story (Metro) - 5.14.20
View Story (The Philadelphian Tribune) – 5.14.20

View Story (WSOC-TV) – 5.15.20
View Story (Austin Chronicle) – 5.15.20

View Story (CBS-3) – 5.16.20
View Story (NPR, Kansas City) – 5.16.20

View Story (WHYY) – 5.16.20
View Story (Fox-29) - 5.17.20

View Story (News Max) – 5.17.20
View Story (6ABC) - 4.9.20

View Story (The Hill) - 5.18.20
View Story (The Hill) - 5.18.20

View Story (WGHP-TV) - 5.18.20
View Story (WINS-AM) - 5.18.20

View Story (People Newspapers) – 5.18.20
View Story (Forbes) - 5.19.20

View Story (Tribune) - 5.19.20

View Story (HealthLeaders) – 5.20.20
View Story (Texoma) – 5.29.20
View Story (Concho Valley) – 5.29.20
View Story (KVEO-TV) – 5.29.20
View Story (KXAN-TV) – 5.29.20
View Story (Yourbasin) – 5.29.20
View Story (The Morning Call) – 5.28.20
View Story (KYW Radio) – 5.28.20
View Story (MySANews) – 6.2.20

Black Americans Face Alarming Rates of Coronavirus Infection in Some States

Racism in the Time of COVID-19

Sharrelle Barber, ScD, MPH, an assistant research professor at the UHC, co-wrote an article for the Interdisciplinary Association for Population Health Science (IAPHS) about racism in the time of COVID-19 and the history of systematic racism and illness.

View Story (IAPHS) - 4.9.20

Trump Admin Now Says Funding for COVID-19 Testing Sites Will Continue

Usama Bilal, MD, PhD, MPH, an assistant professor at the UHC, spoke to the Rolling Stone about plans to end federal support for COVID-19 testing and transitioning the responsibility and funding to states, "Any time a reduction in accessibility in a health resource happens, it is the most vulnerable populations that suffer,” Bilal continued. “People with access to more resources (wealthier, more educated, etc.) tend to have the ability to access those resources through other means (in this case, private testing through referral from the doctor they usually see)."

View Story (Rolling Stone) - 4.9.20

Positive Tests Higher In Poorer Neighborhoods Despite Six Times More Testing In Higher-Income Neighborhoods, Researcher Says

WHYY's Radio Times: Poverty and the Pandemic

Ana V. Diez Roux, MD, PhD, MPH, Dean and Distinguished University Professor of Epidemiology and Director of the UHC, spoke with host Marty Moss-Coane of WHYY's Radio Times about the coronavirus outbreak’s toll on poor communities. Philadelphia has among the highest poverty rate of any American city, with 26% of residents living below the poverty line.

View Story (WHYY's Radio Times) - 4.7.20

States Need Coronavirus Data to Make Timely Decisions. What They Share with the Public Varies Widely.

Sharrelle Barber, ScD, MPH, an assistant research professor at the UHC, were quoted in an April 27 Spotlight PA article about how coronavirus data is being shared among states to inform decision-making. The story was published April 27 by The Philadelphia Inquirer, Pew Charitable Trusts, York Dispatch and other newspapers across Pennsylvania.

View Story (Spotlight PA) - 4.27.20

UHC COVID-19 Resources

COVID-19 Vulnerability Indicators

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Drexel West Philly Promise Neighborhood team has built a data dashboard to help to identify areas across Philadelphia that are highest risk for COVID-19 and its longer-term impacts. We hope these data and maps can be useful for allocating resources during response and recovery efforts. The dashboard is based on the CDC's Social Vulnerability Index, which uses 15 U.S. Census variables at the tract level to help local officials identify communities that may need support in preparing for or recovering from disaster. We have adapted this index to include variables that are most relevant to the COVID-19 context and Philadelphia communities. Right now this dashboard focuses on pre-COVID vulnerabilities, but stay tuned for additional Philadelphia data we are working on including in the dashboard that demonstrates current vulnerabilities (e.g., occupational risk for essential and frontline workers, chronic disease, and access to resources during the pandemic. For up-to-date, zip code-level data on COVID testing, cases, and mortality, please visit the Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s COVID website.

View the Dashboard

COVID-19 in Context: Racism, Segregation, and Racial Inequities in Philadelphia

On March 10, 2020 the city of Philadelphia reported its first case of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)- an infectious disease caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-Cov-2. While interpretations of early data framed the COVID-19 pandemic as the “great equalizer,” racial inequities in the city began to emerge in late March, with Blacks being disproportionately impacted. As reported by the City of Philadelphia on May 29, 2020, forty-five percent of people with confirmed infection were known to be Blacks, 15 percent were white, 9 percent were Hispanic, 4 percent were Asian, and 23 percent were of unknown race. Blacks were 1.9-3.5 times more likely to have confirmed infection than whites (Figure 1). Mortality rates were substantially higher among Blacks (9.4 per 10,000 residents) than whites (6.3 per 10,000). While data disaggregated by race/ethnicity are critical, these data alone fail to fully capture the root causes of racial inequities in COVID-19 and mask the complex systems operating to produce them. This not only limits a more complete understanding of the problem, but it also restricts the scope of short- and long-term policy solutions. This brief uses foundational frameworks of racism and descriptive spatial analysis to place data on COVID-19 in Philadelphia in context, illustrating how structural racism and historical and contemporary patterns of residential segregation have converged to create racial inequities during this pandemic.

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West Philly Promise Neighborhood (WPPN) COVID-19 Community Resources

WPPN has been hard at work generating infographics and resources for the City of Philadelphia. Feedback from their West Philadelphia partners and community residents prompted work on advocacy for social distancing measures, facts about COVID-19, internet access, food access, and testing sites. The WPPN team have also been calculating how many hospitalizations and lives have been saved in Philadelphia due to the shelter-in-place/ stay-at-home orders enacted March 23rd, producing infographics after 2 weeks, 30 days, and 45 days to share with City agencies and the public. These were calculated by the WPPN team at the Urban Health Collaborative at Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health using a model published by The New York Times, and translated into Spanish by Ana Martinez-Donate’s Creating Resilient and Strong Opinion Leaders (CRiSOL) Program.

Social Distancing Graphic
COVID-19 Testing Sites in West Philly
Facts About Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)
COVID19_Infographic_Teens
Internet Connection Infographic
Lives Saved in Philadelphia Infographic

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How Many Lives Have Stay-At-Home Orders Saved?

Using the same model as the WPPN team, the Big Cities Health Coalition (BCHC) team at the Urban Health Collaborative replicated these Philadelphia estimates to calculate hospitalizations and lives saved for all 30 largest health jurisdictions in the US (including Philadelphia). The results released show that early actions by BCHC members and leaders from America’s largest metropolitan health departments, to get the public to stay home led to an estimated 2.1 million hospitalizations avoided and over 200,000 lives saved.

See all 30 BCHC cities estimates

COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean

The Urban Health Collaborative has strong ties to Latin America through participation in the Urban Health Network for Latin American and the Caribbean (LAC-Urban Health network). LAC-Urban Health seeks to promote regional and multisectoral collaboration in order to generate evidence on the drivers of urban health and health equity and translate this evidence into policies to improve health across cities in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Network’s main activity, the Salud Urbana en America Latina (SALURBAL) (“Urban Health in Latin America”) is a five-year project that was launched in April 2017. Project researchers have recently developed developed useful tools for both monitoring the spread of COVID-19 and visualizing current cases in countries, cities, and sub-cities in Latin America.

Read more about SALURBAL and their new COVID-19 Dashboard.

UHC and Dornsife Experts

UHC and Dornsife faculty continue to offer expert commentary and analysis on the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in local, national, and international media outlets.

News media professionals should contact Greg Richter, News Manager, at 215.895.2614 or gdr33@drexel.edu, to schedule an interview with a Dornsife faculty expert.