Equity in Health

Under-five mortality in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: secondary analyses of survey and conflict data by province
Schedwin M; Furaha A B; Kapend R; Akilimali P; et al: Bulletin of the World Health Organisation 100(7), 422–435, 2022

This study compared coverage of key child health policy indicators across provinces and to explore their association with under-five mortality and level of conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A secondary analysis of nationally representative data was implemented from 1380 health facilities and 20 792 households in 2017–2018 was done. All grouped coverage scores demonstrated large ranges across the 26 provinces: newborn health: 20% to 61%; pneumonia: 26% to 86%; diarrhoea: 25% to 63%; malaria: 22% to 53%; and safe environment: 4% to 53%. The diarrhoea score demonstrated the strongest association with under-five mortality. Child mortality and the odds of coverage were higher in conflict-affected provinces for 13 out of 23 indicators. However, the authors also noted that children in unaffected provinces should not be neglected while addressing the needs of the most vulnerable in conflict settings. They notes that prevent, protect and treat strategies for diarrhoeal disease could help improve equity in child survival.

Tackling health inequities in indigenous communities
World Health Organisation: WHO, Geneva, 2022

There are currently 476 million indigenous people globally who experience structural racial and ethnicity-based discrimination, higher rates of health risks and poorer health outcomes. Their leadership and participation in public health is argued to be central to understand and address their health issues. In May 2022, WHO hosted a side event at the 21st session of the UN Permanent Forum under the theme “indigenous peoples, business, autonomy and the human rights principles of due diligence including free, prior and informed consent." The session explored the ‘causes of the causes’ of these health inequities and considered measures to tackle them, with members of indigenous communities speaking out on health systems strengthening, restorative justice, racism and discrimination, traditional medicine and health practices, access to water and social determinants of health like housing and education.

Assessing the impact of Covid-19 on older people in the African Region
WHO Regional Office for Africa: WHO, Brazzaville, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on older persons globally and in the African region. Although overall the region’s population is younger relative to many other world regions, the WHO AFRO region has a population just over 62 million older people and is ageing rapidly, with the number of older people expected to triple in the next three decades. This desktop review, complemented with regional and national stakeholder interviews for six country case studies assessed the impact of COVID-19 on older people. The six case study countries were South Africa, Ghana, Rwanda, Mozambique, Senegal and Mauritius. The findings indicated impacts on falling incomes, rising poverty and food insecurity in older people, particularly in the face of weak social protection systems. Older people faced increasing isolation and challenges in accessing resources and services, and barriers to online systems. Long-term care services for older people were heavily impacted by COVID-19 and the authors point to 'ageism' in ignoring older people's needs and roles in recovery policies and plans. The authors recommend member states in the region expedite policy implementation in the context of the Decade of Healthy Ageing 2021-2030 to address these challenges through strengthened health care systems, community-based associations and networks of older people, age friendly environments and social protection mechanisms.

Inequality kills: The unparalleled action needed to combat unprecedented inequality in the wake of COVID-19
OXFAM International:: Policy Papers, Oxfam, 2022

This report observes that the wealth of the world’s 10 richest men has doubled since the pandemic began, while the incomes of the majority of the global population has fallen due to COVID-19, with widening economic, gender, and racial inequalities within countries and inequality between countries. The report explores the structural causes in policy choices that are made for the richest and most powerful people. Inequality is reported to contribute to the death of at least one person every four seconds. The authors recommend a radical redesign of economies to be centered on equality, clawing back extreme wealth through progressive taxation; investments in powerful, proven inequality-busting public measures; and bold shifts in power in economies and society.

SARS-CoV-2 infection in Africa: A systematic review and meta-analysis of standardised seroprevalence studies, from January 2020 to December 2021
Lewis HC; Ware H; Whelan M; et al.medRxiv 02.14.22270934; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2022.02.14.22270934, 2022

This preprint article presents a meta-analysis of population-based seroprevalence studies conducted in Africa published 01-01-2020 to 30-12-2021 to estimate SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence in Africa. The authors aim to inform evidence-based decision making on Public Health and Social Measures (PHSM) and vaccine strategy. From 54 full texts or early results, reporting 151 distinct seroprevalence studies in Africa, 63% had a low/moderate risk of bias. SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence rose from 3% in Q2 2020 to 65% in Q3 2021. The ratios of seroprevalence from infection to cumulative incidence of confirmed cases was large (overall: 97:1, ranging from 10:1 to 958:1) and steady over time. Seroprevalence was highly heterogeneous both within countries - urban vs. rural (lower seroprevalence for rural geographic areas), children vs. adults (children aged 0-9 years had the lowest seroprevalence) - and between countries and African sub-regions (Middle, Western and Eastern Africa associated with higher seroprevalence).The high seroprevalence in Africa suggests greater population exposure to SARS-CoV-2 and protection against COVID-19 disease than indicated by surveillance data.

COP26 Special Report on Climate Change and Health: The Health Argument for Climate Action
World Health Organisation: WHO, Geneva, 2021

The 10 recommendations in the COP26 Special Report on Climate Change and Health propose a set of priority actions from the global health community to governments and policy makers, calling on them to act with urgency on the current climate and health crises. The recommendations were developed in consultation with over 150 organizations and 400 experts and health professionals. They were intended to inform governments and other stakeholders ahead of the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and to highlight various opportunities for governments to prioritize health and equity in the international climate movement and sustainable development agenda. Each recommendation comes with a selection of resources and case studies to help inspire and guide policymakers and practitioners in implementing the suggested solutions.

Neoliberal disease: COVID-19, co-pathogenesis and global health insecurities
Sparke M; Williams O: Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, 1-18, 2021

The authors present how COVID-19 has exposed, exploited and exacerbated the health-damaging transformations of neoliberal globalization. To explain why, the authors point to a combinatory cascade of socio-viral co-pathogenesis that they call neoliberal disease. From the vectors of vulnerability created by unequal and unstable market societies, to the reduced response capacities of market states and health systems, to the constrained ability of official global health security agencies and regulations to offer effective global health governance, they authors show how the virus has found weaknesses in a market-transformed global body politic. Turning the inequalities and inadequacies of neoliberal societies and states into global health insecurities, the pandemic raises questions about whether the world now faces an inflection point when political dis-ease with neoliberal norms will lead to new kinds of post-neoliberal policy-making. The authors conclude, however, that the prospects for such political-economic transformation on a global scale remain quite limited. despite the evidence of the extraordinary damage described.

Risk assessment for COVID‐19 transmission at household level in sub‐Saharan Africa: evidence from DHS
Makinde O; Akinyemi J; Ntoimo L; et al: Genus 77:24, 1-20, 2021

Although household habitat conditions matter for disease transmission and control, especially in the case of COVID-19, inadequate attention is being given to these risk factors, especially in Africa, where household living conditions are largely suboptimal. This study assesses household sanitation and isolation capacities to understand the COVID-19 transmission risk at household level across Africa, using a secondary analysis of the Demographic and Health Surveys of 16 African countries implemented between 2015 and 2018, exploring handwashing and self-isolation capacities and households with elderly persons most at risk of the disease. Handwashing capacity was highest in Tanzania (48%), and lowest in Chad (4%), varying by household location (urban or rural), as well as household wealth. Isolation capacity was highest in South Africa (77%), and lowest in Ethiopia (31%). Senegal had the largest proportion of households with an elderly person (42%), while Angola (16%) had the lowest. There were strong, independent relationships between handwashing and isolation capacities in a majority of countries. Also, strong associations were found between isolation capacity and presence of older persons in households. Household capacity for COVID-19 prevention varied significantly across countries, with those having elderly household members not necessarily having the best handwashing or isolation capacity. The authors propose from the findings that each country needs to use such information on household risk at population level to shape communication and intervention strategies.

WHO Estimates Africa’s COVID-19 Caseload is Seven Times Higher Than Official Count
Cullinan K: Health Policy Watch, 2021

Africa is estimated to have seven times more COVID-19 cases and three times as many deaths as officially reported, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) Africa region. This means that the continent could have around 59 million cases and 634,500 deaths. “We’re using a model to estimate the degree of under-estimation. The analysis indicates that as few as one in seven cases is being detected, meaning that the true COVID-19 burden in Africa could be around 59 million people,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s Africa executive director. WHO recommends that countries perform 10 tests per 10,000 people each week yet around 20 countries – more than a third of African countries – do not reach this benchmark, said Moeti. The WHO has thus decided to invest $1.8 million to roll out COVID-19 rapid tests in hot spots, starting with pilots in eight countries. Despite this undercount, WHO Africa officials observe lower deaths in Africa than other global regions.

10 Images that illustrate the shameful global vaccine inequity
Pai M: Microbiology online, August 2021

This series of 10 images tell the story behind the ‘great vaccine apartheid’ argued by the author to be the single biggest moral and scientific failure during this the COVID-19 pandemic.

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