COVID-19 and Health Disparities: Structural Evil Unmasked

Ann Glob Health. 2021 Apr 1;87(1):34. doi: 10.5334/aogh.3225.


BACKGROUND: Incidence and mortality from COVID-19 are starkly elevated in poor, minority and marginalized communities. These differences reflect longstanding disparities in income, housing, air quality, preexisting health status, legal protections, and access to health care. The COVID-19 pandemic and its economic consequences have made these ancient disparities plainly visible.

METHODOLOGY: As scholars in Catholic research universities committed to advancing both scientific knowledge and social justice, we examined these disparities through the lenses of both epidemiology and ethics.

FINDINGS: We see these widening disparities as not only as threats to human health, societal stability, and planetary health, but also as moral wrongs – outward manifestations of unrecognized privilege and greed. They are the concrete consequences of policies that promote structural violence and institutionalize racism.

RECOMMENDATIONS: We encourage governments to take the following three scientific and ethical justified actions to reduce disparities, prevent future pandemics, and advance the common good: (1) Invest in public health systems; (2) Reduce economic inequities by making health care affordable to all; providing education, including early education, to all children; strengthening environmental and occupational safeguards; and creating more just tax structures; and (3) Preserve our Common Home, the small blue planet on which we all live.

PMID:33828952 | PMC:PMC8015708 | DOI:10.5334/aogh.3225