Social Determinants of Health x COVID-19

How do social determinants of health come into play when discussing the pandemic? To say that it has caused chaos is an understatement – we all know that our lives have changed dramatically. From leisure trips to the mall to post-work happy hours, most of our daily “luxuries” have been cancelled.

Life as we know it has transformed completely. We have been confined to the four walls of our humble abodes for at least the past two months. Well most of us. While a lot of us are mourning lost vacations, mimosas at brunch & plain old hugs – over 500,000 individuals in the United States do not have the luxury of having consistent four walls, putting them at a significantly increased risk!

Many social determinants of health have a huge effect on COVID-19 outcomes – homeless families are at higher risk of viral transmission because of crowded living spaces & scarce access to testing. A study in Boston showed 36% individuals residing in a shelter had a positive test. In the US, the infection rate is THREE times higher in predominantly black counties than white counties and the mortality rate is SIX times higher. Physical distancing has been great for flattening the curve, but in communities that already have difficulties with SDOH it could create even more adverse health outcomes. Physical distancing is an issue of PRIVILEGE – not everyone has that accessibility. Not everyone can work from home – which splits into people who have been laid off (no job = no insurance or income = increased food insecurity = overall reduction in SDOH) & those who are essential workers (putting them at an overall increased risk to contract COVID19).

COVID-19 is bringing to light the disparities within our society – a lot of us who are involved in public health were heavily taught about these disparities – and now that the rest of the world is starting to understand them more – it’s our opportunity to address them!

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