As Covid 19 has swept across the globe, many people have responded with offers of both personal and business generosity. That is wonderful, humans working together to help each other in a time of need.

However –

"We don't need to build more ventilators!"

As someone who has nursed patients on ventilators, I can assure you that most of them would have been better off with community intervention for manageable health issues, years before they were wheeled into a high tech hospitals.

I can also tell you that being ventilated in an Intensive Care Units carries significant risks. Blood borne infections from central lines. Ventilator Acquired Pneumonia. And worst of all, Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome.

These are all dangerous conditions, caused by Intensive Care intervention. They can, and do kill people.

So if there is any way at all that we can solve people’s health problems out in the community, I feel we should grab it with both hands.

Reading through articles about Covid 19, I have been struck by three issues common to people dying from the virus –

  • Lower levels of vitamin D
  • Higher rates of metabolic diseases
  • Darker skin

Darker Skin and Higher Death Rates from Covid 19

Here are a few compelling statistics –

  • In the American state of Michigan, African Americans make up 15% of the population. However they represent 35% of people diagnosed with Covid 19 and 40% of the people who died from the disease
  • African Americans make up 23% of the population in Cook County, Illinois. Yet they represent 58% of areas Covid 19 deaths
  • African Americans make up 26% of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Yet they represent over half of the Covid 19 cases and 81% of it’s deaths
  • Out of 15,000 Covid 19 patients admitted to American hospitals, 33% of them were black Americans. Yet black people only makes up 13% of the general population

In more northern areas of Europe this increased risk of morbidity and mortality based on skin colour increases.

40% of Covid 19 patients who died in a hospital in Stockholm, Sweden were from Somalia origin. This is despite the fact that the percentage of Somalis living the area is only 0.84%.

"Health men and women older than the age of 65 in Boston were surveyed for Vitamin D status, which revealed that a surprising 34% of white, 42% of hispanic and 84% of African American men and were were vitamin D deficient."

The Role of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that has a substantial impact on the body. It’s roles include –

  • Maintaining normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus
  • Helping to create strong bones
  • Controlling the growth of abnormal cells
  • Stimulating insulin production from the pancreas
  • Minimising risk of low birth weight babies
  • Helping to regulate the Renin Angiotensin system, which controls blood pressure and fluid balance
  • Reducing risk of acute respiratory tract infections and inflammation.

Low vitamin D levels and higher rates of metabolic disease

Black Americans don’t just have the highest rates of mortality and morbidity in respiratory viruses. They also have –

  • A twenty times higher risk of dying young from heart disease than white people
  • Twice the risk of developing diabetes as white people
  • The highest death rate and shortest survival time of any racial group in America, for many cancers

There are a number of documented links between vitamin D and chronic disease.

The best known on is the global rates of multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disorder that damages the nervous system. There is a statistical link between the Earth’s latitude, and rates of multiple sclerosis per head of population.

A likely cause is the rates of ultraviolet exposure, that is, sunlight.

"... a proper supplementation of Vitamin D across populations may reduce the number of severe Covid 19 cases by up to 15%, by lowering the risk factors related to cytokine storm."

The covid 19 pandemic seems to have brought into sharp focus a problem that has been simmering for decades.

The overwhelming majority of African Americans are likely to be vitamin D deficient. They have far higher rates of metabolic disorders.

They now appear to be dying from abnormal immune responses, called ‘cytokinin storms’ in far higher numbers than the general population.

Yet so far, nothing has been done to address this problem.

Our Ancient Immune System, our Dark Shadow

Modern medicine is focused on the conditions that people present to the Doctor with; broken bones, cancerous lumps, high blood sugars. And in most cases Doctors do a really good job of stabilising them.

But as big data and genetic testing improves, many chronic diseases are being traced back to a malfunctioning immune system.

Our bodies are 50% bacteria. Our human DNA contains roughly 100,000 pieces of DNA from ancient viruses. We are literally, a walking history book of the pandemics our ancestors managed to survive.

It is now speculated that our modern lifestyle of clean living, indoor lifestyle and lack of exercise is causing many modern chronic diseases, from asthma to diabetes.

Homo sapien is estimated to be 300,000 years old. But the homo species has been evolving on this planet  for 2.8 million years. The vast majority of that time we lived in close quarters with animals, drank water and ate food that was full of bacteria and parasites and had continuous exposure to sunlight.

If you think about your shadow as your caveman history, that follows where ever you go, you get a different perspective on treating modern diseases like Covid 19.

Time for Reform

After all the research into the benefits of natural sunlight and damaging impact of low vitamin D levels, why have international guidelines not been introduced to address this problem in a low cost and effective manner?

The health industry does not need more money, more sympathy (no matter how well meaning) or more medications.

Instead, I believe we need to scale down wasteful and error prone hospitals. And shift the health dollar towards cheaper and more effective community health programs.

Like testing for vitamin D deficiencies in high risk groups, giving vitamin D supplements and advising people who live in northern climates to go on regular ‘sun holidays’. Europeans have been doing this for centuries.

I’m not rejecting all high tech medical intervention. Sometimes it’s the only thing that works.

But for the most part, a stitch in time saves nine.

© Wikihospitals May 2020


The links between darker skin and higher incidents of death from Covid 19

Why are Blacks dying at higher rates from COVID-19? Rashawn Ray, Brookings, April 9, 2020.

COVID-19: Vitamin D deficiency; and, death rates; are both disproportionately higher in elderly Italians, Spanish, Swedish Somali, and African Americans? By Robert Andrew Brown, 7th April 2020, Modern Ghana.

Call for Education and Research Into Vitamin D Deficiency/Insufficiency. American Public Health Association 28th October, 2008

In Chicago, 70% of COVID-19 Deaths Are Black. By Elliott Ramos and María Inés Zamudio, 6th April 2020, WEBZ.

Why Black People Need More Vitamin D. Linda Villarosa, The Root, 6th May 2009.

African-Americans At Greatest Risk of Vitamin D Deficiency. By Amber Freeland, September 24th 2019, The Cooper Institute.

Early Data Shows African Americans Have Contracted and Died of Coronavirus at an Alarming Rate. By Akilah Johnson and Talia Buford, April 3rd 2020, Propublica.

The burning building. Rapid Response: Inhabitants of Swedish-Somali origin are at great risk for covid-19. Susanne Bejerot and Mats Humble, BMJ, 24th March 2020.

Other blogs in this series:

Understanding pandemics, our dark shadow.

Working to death, our dark shadow.