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article imageCoronavirus and poverty: The problematic connection

By Tim Sandle     Apr 4, 2021 in Health
The impact of the coronavirus infection upon a person is connected to the health of the individual. The rates of transmission correlate with overcrowding and poverty, with many living in these conditions affected by poor health.
This means it is not surprising that coronavirus death rates have been higher in low income communities. These are the findings of a new study looking at England, although such findings are no doubt reflective of many adverse conditions in other countries.
English data compiled during the first wave of the pandemic, from March to July 2020, compiled by researcher Michael Marmot and colleagues provides an expose of the root causes of COVID-19's devastating impact on the lowest-paid.
The measure includes considering the percentage of overcrowded households within local authority areas. This is plotted against COVID-19 deaths per 100,000. The key finding from these data is that the more overcrowding present in the area where you live, the higher the death rate. This draws a connection between a greater chance of a fatality in relation to the virus and social class.
In essence, the more deprived the local authority, the higher the COVID-19 death rate. Here the North of England has been worst hit. This reflects pre-pandemic widening health and social determinants inequalities between Regions
As well as class, ethnicity is also a factor. It is estimated that around 787,000 (3 percent) of the estimated 23 million households in England are categorized as overcrowded (that is, they had fewer bedrooms than they needed to avoid undesirable sharing).
Of these, around 2 percent of White British households were overcrowded. In contrast, the households with the highest rates of overcrowding were in the Bangladeshi (24 percent), Pakistani (18 percent), Black African (16 percent), Arab (15 percent) and Mixed White and Black African (14 percent). These are ethnic groups as defined by the UK government.
White British households were less likely to be overcrowded than households from all other ethnic groups combined – this was across all socio-economic groups and age groups, most regions and income bands, and regardless of whether they owned or rented their home.
In a separate report("Build Back Fairer"), Marmot indicates that the lessons from the coronavirus pandemic upon health outcomes indicates a pressing need to build a fairer society. He writes: “There is an urgent need to do things differently, to build a society that functions to meet the needs of its members; to build a well-being economy that puts achievement of health and well-being at the heart of government strategy, rather than narrow economic goals; to build a society that responds to the climate crisis at the same time as achieving greater health equity.”
The research appears in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, where the research paper is titled “COVID-19: exposing and amplifying inequalities.”
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