Evolution of COVID-19 Health Disparities in Arizona

Felix L. Shen, Jingmin Shu, Matthew Lee, Hyunsung Oh, Ming Li, George Runger, Flavio F. Marsiglia, Li Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


COVID-19 burdens are disproportionally high in underserved and vulnerable communities in Arizona. As the pandemic progressed, it is unclear if the initial associated health disparities have changed. This study aims to elicit the dynamic landscape of COVID-19 disparities at the community level and identify newly emerging vulnerable subpopulations. Findings from this study can inform interventions to increase health equity among minoritized communities in the Southwest, other regions of the US, and globally. We compiled biweekly COVID-19 case counts of 274 zip code tabulation areas (ZCTAs) in Arizona from October 21, 2020, to November 25, 2021, a time spanning multiple waves of COVID-19 case growth. Within each biweekly period, we tested the associations between the growth rate of COVID-19 cases and the population composition in a ZCTA including race/ethnicity, income, employment, and age using multiple regression analysis. We then compared the associations across time periods to discover temporal patterns of health disparities. The association between the percentage of Latinx population and the COVID-19 growth rate was positive before April 2021 but gradually converted to negative afterwards. The percentage of Black population was not associated with the COVID-19 growth rate at the beginning of the study but became positive after January 2021 which persisted till the end of the study period. Young median age and high unemployment rate emerged as new risk factors around mid-August 2021. Based on these findings, we identified 37 ZCTAs that were highly vulnerable to future fast escalation of COVID-19 cases. As the pandemic progresses, vulnerabilities associated with Latinx ethnicity improved gradually, possibly bolstered by culturally responsive programs in Arizona to support Latinx. Still communities with disadvantaged social determinants of health continued to struggle. Our findings inform the need to adjust current resource allocations to support the design and implementation of new interventions addressing the emerging vulnerabilities at the community level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Immigrant and Minority Health
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • COVID-19
  • Health disparity
  • Population health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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