UK to probe racial bias in medical devices after COVID toll

The British government is investigating whether built-in racial bias in some medical devices led to Black and Asian people getting sick and dying disproportionately from COVID-19

Via AP news wire
Sunday 21 November 2021 10:49

The British government is investigating whether built-in racial bias in some medical devices led to Black and Asian people getting sick and dying disproportionately from COVID-19.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said Sunday that the pandemic had highlighted health disparities along race and gender lines. He said that a third of intensive care admissions in Britain at the height of the pandemic were people from Black and ethnic minority backgrounds, more than double their share of the population.

Britain’s statistics office has found that in the first year of the pandemic, up to March 2021, Black and South Asian people in the U.K. had higher death rates than their white compatriots, even after factors like occupation and underlying health conditions were taken into account.

Javid said one issue was research showing that pulse oximeters, which measure blood oxygen levels through the skin, work less well on darker skin. He called it a “systemic” worldwide issue.

“Now, I’m not saying this was deliberate by anyone, I think it’s just, it’s a systemic issue potentially, with medical devices and it may go even further than that with medical textbooks, for example,” Javid told Sky News

Writing in the Sunday Times, he said “the possibility that a bias — even an inadvertent one — could lead to a poorer health outcome is totally unacceptable.”

He said he hoped to work with his U.S. counterpart, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and officials in other countries, to eliminate bias in the health system.

He said a U.K. review, which will also look at gender bias, will report its findings by the end of January.

Britain has recorded more than 143,000 coronavirus deaths, the highest total in Europe after Russia.

___

Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in