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COVID-19: Geographic regions and poverty influenced the pandemic

The longer-term goal is to gather and share information that health leaders may use to better support and protect against public health threats.

Oxfam said most countries had failed to act to tackle inequality in the wake of the Covid pandemic
Oxfam said most countries had failed to act to tackle inequality in the wake of the Covid pandemic - Copyright AFP/File TIMOTHY A. CLARY
Oxfam said most countries had failed to act to tackle inequality in the wake of the Covid pandemic - Copyright AFP/File TIMOTHY A. CLARY

A new University of Michigan public health study has considered how COVID-19 affected state residents have discovered that the severity of illness or negative impact of the pandemic is strongly linked to where one lives (and in relation to income and health levels typical for a given community).

This has led to the issuing of a report, titled “Geographic Differences in Access to Care, Recovery, and the Social Impact of COVID-19 in Michigan”. The reports breaks down experiences and the effects of the virus and the pandemic on Michigan residents’ health, work, finances, personal life, mental health and other issues. Some of the differences seen across regions may be due to underlying population vulnerabilities.

To develop the insights, researchers culled the data from surveys of more than 5,500 Michigan residents.

The longer-term goal is to gather and share information that public health leaders may use to better support and protect residents when future public health threats and emergencies arise.

One of the findings was that Detroit had the highest proportion of adults with severe disease, and also experienced many of the social impacts, including job loss, reduced work hours and difficulty paying bills. Hence there is a social class connection. In Detroit and Macomb County, nearly 1 in 4 employed adults who worked in person lacked regular access to personal protective equipment at work.

To further support this, the research finds that Detroit had the highest proportion of residents without private health insurance, and the greatest proportion to delay COVID-19 care due to cost or other barriers.

In addition, the southwest region of the state had the highest proportion of adults with long COVID—persistent symptoms 90 days or more after COVID-19 onset. Washtenaw County had the lowest proportion reporting severe disease or long COVID.

Another measure adds to the weight of these tendencies. More than 90 percent of respondents in Monroe and St. Clair counties said their physical presence was required at work, while nearly 40% of respondents in Oakland County reported not taking sick leave while ill.

The findings are based on responses from more than 5,500 Michiganders who had COVID-19 prior to June 1, 2022. Their responses are compared by where they live.

Going forwards, the report makes the case for consistent social, economic and medical support for communities to avoid the most severe consequences of public health emergencies.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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