Stanford PhD Students Investigate Racial Disparities in COVID-19

Stanford PhD Students Investigate Racial Disparities in COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Black and Hispanic populations harder than most for a variety of socioeconomic and medical reasons. Two Stanford PhD students are investigating what interventions might work to combat the racial disparities.
A Black woman wearing a mask gets her temperature taken. Getty Images

There is a growing body of evidence showing large racial disparities in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths across the country. A recent Stanford Medicine study found that Black and Hispanic people make up 58% of all patients hospitalized for COVID-19 — and that 53% of those patients died from the disease.

Two Stanford PhD candidates and their faculty mentors are tackling the issue by investigating interventions to combat disparities in coronavirus outcomes among marginalized populations.

Anneke Claypool, a PhD candidate in management science and engineering, and Marissa Reitsma, a PhD student in health policy, are using the Stanford-CIDE Coronavirus Simulation Model in consultation with California policymakers to quantify the potential policies and interventions to reduce those health disparities. Their co-investigators are Stanford Health Policy’s Jeremy Goldhaber-Fiebert and Joshua Salomon.

“There is a critical need to identify key drivers of these health disparities and prioritize effective interventions to eliminate them,” said Claypool, the principal investigator. “We intend to use this modeling framework to generate projections of the impacts of different interventions.”

The team — with an early-career grant from the Stanford Center for Population Health Sciences — will analyze multiple streams of data, including COVID-19 outcome data, health-care utilization data, and exposure risk data to develop a microsimulation model. They will then utilize this model to evaluate the effects of different interventions and policies in order to identify the most important drivers of racial disparities. They believe their results will help decision-makers prioritize effective interventions to address these disparities.

“COVID-19 has disproportionately affected communities of color in California and across America,” said Reitsma. The researchers recognize there are long-standing and pervasive inequalities in outcomes across many diseases.

“We hope that this project can motivate equity-focused policies to address COVID-19 disparities, and then launch a larger body of future work involving simulation modeling with the goal of reducing these unjust health disparities more broadly,” Reitsma said.

Anneke Claypool is a a PhD student in management science and engineering at Stanford University.

Anneke Claypool

PhD Student in Management Science and Engineering
Focuses on developing models to evaluate health policy impact and costs.
Marissa Reitsma is a PhD student at Stanford Health Policy

Marissa Reitsma

Health Policy PhD Student
Develops applied quantitative models to reduce health inequities.

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