Celebrities Omid Djalili, Whoopi Goldberg and Sanjeev Bhaskar have joined forces to appeal for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) participants to take part in COVID-19 research to help establish why people from BAME populations are at greater risk from coronavirus.
People from all minority ethnic groups are at greater risk of getting severe illness with COVID-19 compared with the white population in the UK.
British actors and comedians and broadcasters Omid Djalili and Sanjeev Bhaskar and the American Oscar winning Whoopi Goldberg and urged BAME people to join coronavirus research studies in a bid to help find the reasons behind the link.
According to recent studies, black and south Asian people are twice as likely to die from COVID-19 compared to white people.
Speaking on the video compiled to support recruitment, Omid Djalili said: “As you know we are in the middle of a devastating pandemic and it seems people from these populaces are affected disproportionality and we want to find out why, now.
“There are a lot of tests and trials going on but very few people from these communities are putting themselves forward for research. We need to get on with this to help people not just here, but globally, so if you know anyone from these backgrounds, relatives or friends, please pass on this message.”
Omid added: “The sooner we do it the more lives we can save. Now. Thank you.”
Professor Kamlesh Khunti, who is a Professor in Primary Care Diabetes and Vascular Medicine at the University of Leicester, leads the Centre for BME Health and NIHR ARC East Midlands. He is also a trustee of the South Asian Health Foundation.
Professor Khunti said: “We have been concerned about this issue based on anecdotal reports and data from Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre has since confirmed that. We now need more data, and urgently need people from BAME backgrounds to come forward and take part in ongoing national COVID-19 studies.
“We thank all of the celebrities in helping us to encourage BAME people to join these studies – it is only by research that we can find answers, which will then allow us to design the appropriate health interventions.”
Professor Nita Forouhi from the MRC Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge, who helped to organise the campaign, said: “We know that people of BAME groups have a much higher risk of developing and dying from COVID-19.”
“To find out why, and to offer the best treatments, we need BAME people to come forward for research. So much good research is now happening in the UK, both for the treatment of COVID-19 and for vaccines and prevention. There are a number of clinical trials and other types of research to engage with. The time for action is now by all of us.”
Professor Azhar Farooqi OBE, who is the chair of NHS Leicester City Clinical Commissioning Group, has also lent his support to the campaign.
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.