Risk of severe illness from COVID-19 among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults: the construct of ‘vulnerable populations’ obscures the root causes of health inequities

Katherine A. Thurber, Eden M. Barrett, Jason Agostino, Catherine Chamberlain, James Ward, Vicki Wade, Mary Belfrage, Raglan Maddox, David Peiris, Jennie Walker, Bernard Baffour, Mark Wenitong, Charlee Law, Timothy Senior, Naomi Priest, Kate Freeman, Tanya Schramm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective: To quantify the prevalence of known health-related risk factors for severe COVID-19 illness among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults, and their relationship with social determinants. 

Methods: Weighted cross-sectional analysis of the 2018-19 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey; Odds Ratios for cumulative risk count category (0, 1, or ≥2 health-related risk factors) by social factors calculated using ordered logistic regression. 

Results: Of the adult population, 42.9%(95%CI:40.6,45.2) had none of the examined health-related risk factors; 38.9%(36.6,41.1) had 1, and 18.2%(16.7,19.7) had ≥2. Adults experiencing relative advantage across social indicators had significantly lower cumulative risk counts, with 30-70% lower odds of being in a higher risk category. 

Conclusions: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples must continue to be recognised as a priority population in all stages of pandemic preparedness and response as they have disproportionate exposure to social factors associated with risk of severe COVID-19 illness. Indigeneity itself is not a ‘risk’ factor and must be viewed in the wider context of inequities that impact health. 

Implications for public health: Multi-sectoral responses are required to improve health during and after the COVID-19 pandemic that: enable self-determination; improve incomes, safety, food security and culturally-safe healthcare; and address discrimination and trauma.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages6
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Sep 2021

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Risk of severe illness from COVID-19 among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults: the construct of ‘vulnerable populations’ obscures the root causes of health inequities'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this