Emerging data indicate disproportionate COVID-19 death rates among members of racial/ethnic minority groups in the United States. The contribution of demographic factors, socioeconomic status (SES), population mobility, and environmental exposures is unclear. Using California death certificate data, we will study potential determinants of probable COVID-19 deaths and excess all-cause mortality during the pandemic.
In Aim 1 we will evaluate the independent contribution of acute (prior 1-8 weeks) and chronic (prior 1-2 years) air pollution exposure to COVID-19 mortality and excess all-cause mortality that has been observed during the pandemic.
In Aim 2 we will estimate the joint association of individual level demographic determinants (e.g., sex, age, race/ethnicity) and contextual factors (e.g., neighborhood demographics/SES, time-varying cell-phone based mobility, air pollution). The expected outcome of this investigation is an improved understanding of the effect of ambient air pollution on COVID-19 mortality risk and the impact of individual and contextual factors on COVID- 19 mortality, with a goal of discerning factors that may have led to the troubling higher COVID-19 mortality being observed in racial/ethnic minority populations. Study findings will have an important positive impact by identifying characteristics of high-risk, vulnerable communities that can guide more targeted and effective public health interventions. Clarifying the role of air pollution in COVID-19 deaths could be highly relevant to air quality regulations that potentially could reduce mortality.

Public Health Relevance

Demographic data on people who have died from COVID-19 during the first few months of the pandemic in the United States reveal disturbing racial/ethnic disparities. An improved understanding of what factors may be contributing to higher death rates in communities of color as well as the role of air pollution on mortality during the pandemic is critical for the identification of vulnerable communities and tailoring effective public health interventions.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
Center Core Grants (P30)
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Environmental Health Sciences Review Committee (EHS)
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Thompson, Claudia L
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University of Southern California
Public Health & Prev Medicine
Schools of Medicine
Los Angeles
United States
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