These same people are also more likely to have the chronic conditions that the global burden of disease highlights – poverty, lack of universal health care, lack of access to better quality food and a public health system that is estimated to be worthwhile. $ 4.5 billion before COVID-19 even flashed in the eyes of a bat. “Your risk of dying if you don’t have a comorbidity is less than 0.1 percent,” Galea said. “People with lower socio-economic status and people with color were more at risk. In some ways, it’s that simple. “
To paraphrase a famous book, this is a great catch. The virus that causes COVID-19 would always be deadly. But fewer people in poverty, fewer people with conditions that have turned out to be dangerous comorbidities, and a better health care system that focuses on prevention rather than magic bullet treatments would mean the same deadly virus would kill fewer people. “Why did COVID become the problem it started with?”
And the catch is becoming more attractive. Earlier this week in an article in Journal of the American Medical Association, two Harvard economists have calculated that all deaths and diseases from COVID-19 so far and those likely to occur before mid-2021, combined with economic losses, mental anguish and loss of output, will summarize to one a staggering number: $ 16 trillion. That’s about 90 percent of the annual gross domestic product of the United States. “For a family of four, the expected loss would be nearly $ 200,000,” economists wrote. “Approximately half of this amount is the lost income from the recession caused by COVID-19; the rest are the economic effects of a shorter and less healthy life. “
Even that the burden is shared unfairly. “By closing the economy, we are hurting the poor and people of color more economically than keeping them open,” said Alan Krupnik, an economist and senior fellow at Resources for the Future. “But you can’t open the economy until people have a reasonable expectation that they will be safe when they go to a restaurant or a bar or go to work. We must first take care of the disease so that the economy can flourish. “It’s an income effect and it creates feedback. Trying to deal with the effects of a pandemic once it has engulfed the economy worsens the economic effects on the most vulnerable … which means that in order to survive financially, they have to are at greater risk … which makes comorbidities potentially more dangerous.
Some researchers describe COVID-19 not as a pandemic but as a “syndem” synergistic epidemic of related, overlapping problems, each worsening the others. This is bad. But on the bright side, syndemes offer more goals for opportunities. Expensive drugs and accelerated vaccine trials are the types of long shots you should only bet on if you (or your government) have not put the boring public health work in front. The report on the global burden of disease quietly suggests that it is not too late. In particular, for COVID-19, this would be a message about wearing masks, figuring out how to implement large-scale improvements in ventilation systems and getting help from people to stay at home. All this worked in Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea and even Wuhan. It can work here. But the GBD figures show how to build a system that can handle any other problem, including infectious surprises like SARS-CoV-2. And that same system will make a happier, healthier world – one that is strong enough to shake off SARS-CoV-3 someday, too.
This story originally appeared on wired.com.