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Marion Wright Edelman
Marion Wright Edelman

Marc Morial
Marc Morial

Leading Causes of Death and Greater COVID-19 Impact on Black Men in the U.S.

By: Judy Seals-Togbo, MPH, Program Director
Amber Schaffer, Research Associate at Men’s Health Network
Melissa Barlow, Public Policy Associate at Men’s Health Network

As life starts to return to a “new” normal from the COVID-19 pandemic, we are slowly coming to a point where the number of COVID-19 cases are decreasing. More and more individuals are able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S.

Over the course of the pandemic, we have seen COVID-19 take the lives of family members, friends, colleagues, and loved ones. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of July 9, 2021, a total of 2,297,764 people have been hospitalized in the U.S. due to COVID-19 and 33,604,986 people have reported having COVID-19. Not only has the pandemic changed our lives on a personal, social, and emotional level, but it has also affected the death rates in the U.S. Over the past 18 months, we have witnessed the leading causes of death shift throughout the U.S.

Health System Tracker points out that as of January of this year, COVID-19 had surpassed both heart disease and cancer to become the leading cause of death. The article explains that COVID-19 has since dropped to seventh place in the top ten leading causes of death (June 2021). The top three leading causes of death for men in the U.S. are now heart disease, cancer, and unintentional injury.

Although COVID has taken the lives of many, as of June 2020, 57% of COVID-19 deaths have been men according to the CDC. Records also show 34% of COVID-19 deaths were non-Hispanic Black people. So why has COVID-19 had a greater impact on men and on African American men?

Experts have theorized that the reason more men have died due to COVID-19 is because of men’s approach to their personal health. Most men are not as proactive about their health as women. Compared to women, men are less likely to schedule annual visits with a primary healthcare provider. Furthermore, men prioritize their health less than women do. Men are more likely to have weaker adaptive immune systems and preexisting health conditions, such as obesity and diabetes, which are likely to increase chances of dying from COVID-19, according to the CDC.

Pre-existing conditions and other factors come from certain health behaviors that are prominently linked to men and Black men. According to the CDC, men have higher rates of tobacco and alcohol use than women. Additionally, women are more likely than men to practice good COVID-19 health behaviors such as hand-washing, wearing a mask, and social distancing. Each of these factors have played a role in the increased death rate of men due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S.

Black men and Black Americans are more susceptible to COVID-19 because they likely to have existing chronic conditions such as, diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease, according to CNN. Many Black Americans have less access to healthcare and have lower insurance coverage than most, making it difficult to receive proper COVID-19 treatments or testing. Due to COVID-19, the Black population has also suffered greatly from job loss. Lastly, CNN reports that many members of the Black community are more likely to live in higher density areas, which can cause COVID-19 to spread more quickly. Each of these situations had increased the COVID-19 death rate among Black men and Black Americans. 

While vaccines are now available, COVID-19 vaccination rates in men lag slightly behind that for women. And, the Kaiser Family Foundation reports that the highest vaccination rates are among Asians (62%), with whites (47%), Hispanics (39%) and blacks (34%) following in that order.

Women are more likely to be vaccinated than men, and early on in the national vaccination campaign the gap between men and women was substantial, but now the gap has dwindled with women receiving about 53.5% of vaccines.The fact that women continue to trend in vaccine acceptance is not surprising as national data shows that women tend to get vaccinations, particularly for seasonal flu, at much higher rates than men.

The reasons men continue to be reluctant to be vaccinated against a virus that causes significantly more severe illness and death in men is complex, multifaceted and still poorly understood.  However, most health experts believe that part of the reason men, particularly younger men, do not get vaccinated is because of the overall lower levels of health service use by men than women. Part of the reason is also in the stigma men often wrongfully associate with seeking healthcare, that using health services somehow takes away from their sense of self-reliance, ability to “fight it” and invincibility.

We know that men have been greatly impacted by the pandemic, both emotionally and physically. Men’s Health Network (MHN) celebrated Men’s Health Month this June to encourage men to improve their health, especially when it comes to COVID-19.

MHN promoted men’s health through three twitter chats, one of which was focused on vaccine hesitancy among men. MHN also hosted a webinar with the Department of Health and Human Services on Men’s Health, Gender Equity, and the COVID-19 Pandemic and a Congressional Briefing on Men’s Mental Health and COVID-19. Both of which can be viewed on YouTube at and at

MHN has also partnered with Patience Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) on three evidence-based research papers that explore the connection between the COVID-19 pandemic and men. Links to these research papers can be found at the bottom of this article, or just search PCORI at

Men’s Health Network invites you to continue raising awareness about Men’s Health and the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope that together we can work to improve the well-being of all men, boys, and their families.


COVID-19 and Minority Men


COVID-19 and Men, Behavioral Health, Clinical Considerations

COVID-19 and Men, Behavioral Health, Economic Effects




 Marc Morial, President and CEO National Urban League

To Be Equal: In White House Meeting Co-Organized by National Urban League, Civil Rights Leaders Ask Biden and Harris to Put the “Full Moral Prestige and Power of the Presidency” Behind Voting Rights

“The 21st century Jim Crow assault is real. It’s unrelenting, and we’re going to challenge it vigorously. While this broad assault against voting rights is not unprecedented, it’s taking on a new and, literally, pernicious forms. It’s no longer just about who gets to vote or making it easier for eligible voters to vote. It’s about who gets to count the vote—who gets to count whether or not your vote counted at all. It’s about moving from independent election administrators who work for the people to polarized state legislatures and partisan actors who work for political parties. To me, this is simple: This is election subversion. It’s the most dangerous threat to voting and the integrity of free and fair elections in our history.”

—President Joe Biden


Last week, I had the opportunity to meet with President Biden and Vice President Harris to discuss the appalling attack on democracy that is ongoing in state legislatures across the country, as well as other issues of racial justice.

A few days later, President Biden delivered one of the most impassioned speeches of his presidency, echoing many of the themes we discussed in our meeting.  He alluded to our meeting, reminding Americans of our commitment to “stay vigilant and challenge these odious laws in the courts.”  I was proud that we pushed the President to address the issue, and we intend to continue pushing.

The National Urban League helped lead the meeting between the White House and a group of leaders from eight legacy Black civil rights organizations. Joining me were Melanie Campbell, President and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation; Dr. Johnnetta Cole, National Chair and President of the National Council of Negro Women; Wade Henderson, Interim President of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; Damon Hewitt, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund; Derrick Johnson, President and CEO of the NAACP; and Reverend Al Sharpton, President of the National Action Network.

I was grateful for the opportunity to impress upon the President and Vice President the urgency of confronting the wave of anti-voter legislation that is surging through state legislatures. When we look at what is happening in this nation, we see an effort to impose a system of American apartheid on our grand and glorious multicultural nation.  State laws are used to suppress the vote, the filibuster process is used to obstruct Congressional oversight. the courts are used to undercut the Voting Rights Act, all to subvert the democratic process and overturn the will of the people.

We urged President Biden to put the full moral prestige and the power of the presidency behind voting rights, to help frame the debate for the American people.  As a candidate, he talked about the soul of the nation. No issue cuts to the soul of the nation more than voting rights.

I was glad to hear President Biden and Vice President Harris reconfirm their determination to push for passage of the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act—two vital bills that would protect voting rights and the integrity of the elections process.

We also discussed the frustrating delay in securing passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which is currently being negotiated in the Senate. Days after the meeting, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, who is leading the negotiations for Senate Republicans, said he hopes a police reform package is approved by the end of this month.

We look forward to continuing the discussion and holding the President and Vice President to their commitments.



Marian Wright Edelman 
ChildWatch: Show Up

You may be hurting or afraid. Show up.

We’ll gather healing on the way. Show up.

We will be strong, we will be brave. Show up.

Dream of the world we will create. Show up.

—Joe Davis


Joe Davis is an artist, educator, and speaker “committed to activism and compelled to create work that celebrates social transformation, healing, and liberation,” and he is presenting his poem “Show Up” during the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF)’s annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry being held virtually from July 20–22. All are welcome and attendance is free of charge! The Proctor Institute gathers clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders, community organizers, and other faith-based advocates for spiritual renewal, networking, movement-building, and theological reflection about the urgent needs of children at the intersection of race and poverty. This year’s theme is “Listening to the Children: A Radical Revolution of Values.” Joe Davis is a former participant in the Proctor Institute’s Dale P. Andrews Freedom Seminary, an immersion experience for seminary students who also wish to “show up” and work with communities fighting systemic injustices that impact children and youths.

The Proctor Institute was created in 1995 by CDF’s then Religious Affairs Director Shannon Daley-Harris in response to a gap in preparation for ministry. Most seminaries provided classes in theology, preaching, Christian education, and youth ministry, but few were providing both the content and frame of justice and child advocacy to prepare clergy and others for ministry in and with a world of systemic inequities. Proctor allows students to join in and build on CDF’s decades of work to improve children’s lives. The Freedom Seminary course led by Dr. Janet Wolf and a consortium of faculty is now offered for credit by more than 20 institutions. It is rooted in the Black prophetic church and freedom movement traditions, and it is an opportunity to redefine religious leadership through the lens of the sacredness of every child. The course explores questions like these: “What theologies perpetuate poverty, mass incarceration, white supremacy, and oppression? How can we move faith communities from charity to justice? How can we develop strong and effective interfaith partnerships to seek justice for all of our children?”

Children need adults in every faith community who are asking these kinds of questions. I hope you and the members of your congregation will join us next week for the Proctor Institute as we consider the many ways and reasons to show up for children. As Joe Davis writes:

“I show up because I know I am worthy of abundant joy, profound peace, and luxurious love in this lifetime.

I show up because the pulsating rhythm of my ancestors’ songs sing in my soul, moving my body to dance wild and free—without apology or resistance, but with exuberance and ease.

I show up because the Spirit of the Most High breathes heaven through my being with a subversive sovereignty, rising and rooted in a wellspring of life and power.

I show up because my family shows me what it looks like to carry faith and integrity through the waves of trial and tribulation, to stand as a testament of vulnerability and strength.

I show up because I know all humans cause harm to other humans—myself included. I’m committed to practicing healing justice and freedom work to reduce the harm and create more space for reparative action and communal flourishing.

I show up because I want to remind others the world we long for is not only possible but irresistible, growing bigger each moment we choose intentionality and purpose over unconsciousness and carelessness. The future we dream of is ushered through us, through our presence.

Why do you show up?”

—July 16, 2021



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