Swine flu pandemic will reveal 21st century’s poverty pandemic

Swine flu pandemic will reveal 21st century’s poverty pandemic

The H1N1 pandemic in the spring of 2009 demonstrated that H1N1 does not respect national borders.  On 9/24, the Washington Post reported that the World Health Organization hopes to immunize 10 percent of the population in the poorest 90 countries for swine flu.  WHO’s financing mechanism for this program is from the richest countries and global pharmaceutical companies. Even though the selfish interests of the West support this intervention, WHO only has sufficient resources to acquire 2/3 of the supply of vaccine needed to achieve its goal.  The developed world plans on immunizing far more than 10% of their population, and the per-capita spend on health care that in the developing world.  Economic disparities are major drivers of disparities in health care.

Historically, influenza, like many other illnesses, has not been an equal opportunity disease.  People with co-existing conditions are more susceptible to poor health outcomes.  Young children, chronically ill and the elderly population shoulder a disproportionate share of the burden of swine flu.  Most developing countries have high incidence of malnourished children and adults with many co-existing medical conditions.

It remains unclear whether the fall outbreak will follow this pattern, and whether the developing world will suffer disproportionately. But it is more likely the poor will take the burden of this pandemic as they face many socioeconomic factors, poor resources for clean water and sanitation, no health care system or inadequate resources to seek medical attention. This Swine flu pandemic with WHO’s vaccine intervention may spare the lives of a few poor and needy in the developing world but mostly it will reveal the disparities that exists in health distribution.

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One response to “Swine flu pandemic will reveal 21st century’s poverty pandemic

  1. This is an excellent point, and one that I feel is too frequently ignored by the US media when discussing H1N1.

    I hope, too, that the US public health officials, policy makers, etc. will be able to notice that we have inequality right here and that the wealthy and healthy will not be hit as hard by H1N1 as those without access to paid sick days, the vaccine, etc.

    It is good to think about disparities between rich and poor countries, but we should also look at the disparities between rich and poor counties right here at home.

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