Professor Kamlesh Khunti has told MPs “primary prevention is key” to reducing the risk of contracting coronavirus in patients from black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.
Professor Khunti, who is also the Director for the Centre for BME Health, was the first to spot an association between severe symptoms of COVID-19 and people from BAME groups and was called on to give evidence to a parliamentary committee.
He was one of the experts called to speak to MPs on the parliamentary women and equalities committee, which held an evidence session on 17 June for their inquiry into the impact of coronavirus on BAME people, who have been disproportionately dying from COVID-19.
The experts said that the NHS could help prevent illness and reduce the risk of contracting coronavirus in patients from BAME backgrounds by lowering the age at which the NHS health check begins for some patients.
Kamlesh Khunti, Professor of Primary Care Diabetes and Vascular Medicine at the University of Leicester, giving evidence, said: “The biological factors are well known. There are some modifiable and some non-modifiable factors. Having chronic diseases is definitely a modifiable factor.”
He referred to a matter dealt with in a Public Health England report on this subject published on 16 June, saying: “Primary prevention is key. We need to ensure that people from BAME backgrounds are assessed regularly for the risk factors that are mentioned.
“We have an NHS health check which is for people aged 40 to 74. For people with BAME backgrounds, because they get these conditions earlier, we should extend that to age 25 and onwards.”
There was also a need to target more help for BAME people in primary care, he added, saying: “We’ve had a lockdown for three months and this may continue for a little longer. There’s been disruption in terms of managing patients in primary care practices.
“It’s estimated that 95% of patients are managed in general practice. Because these people haven’t had an assessment we need to ensure that they are seen early and their risk factors are controlled through remote consultations, which is happening but not routinely.
“When we come out of lockdown, we need to make sure that these people are assessed, they have their blood tests done, and they are managed more aggressively to make sure their risk factors are controlled.”
The committee asked medical and academic experts as well as those from BAME backgrounds if biological determinants were a primary factor in more BAME people dying from COVID-19, and in which areas the government’s efforts to protect BAME people would best be focused.
The Centre for BME Health is working to reduce health inequality in the region by sharing resources and promoting research. The Centre is supported by the University of Leicester and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) East Midlands. NIHR ARC East Midlands is a partnership of regional health services, universities and industry which turns research into cost-saving and high-quality care through cutting-edge innovation.
Professor Khunti has helped lead a national campaign to address the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on BAME groups.
Earlier this month, Professor Khunti was among an international group of experts calling for researchers to ensure people from BAME groups are proportionately represented in COVID-19 studies.
A paper published in The Lancet on Friday, June 12, by a host of researchers UK andthe USA, looked in detail at the inclusion and recording of ethnicity in research studies.
Published on: 21 Jun 2020