Compassion in a Time of COVID-19

n many countries, efforts to contain COVID-19 have resulted in an economic recession, pushing millions out of their jobs, and creating previously unprecedented unemployment in many countries worldwide. In addition to the millions of people infected by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), hundreds of thousands have died—and will die—from COVID-19.

An anticipated wave of mental and behavioural problems is beginning to be documented—compounded by social and economic stressors and uncertainties—that will likely present a population health burden for months and years to come.

Yet evidence is emerging that the effects of COVID-19, far from being indiscriminate, follow deeply entrenched patterns of health inequities, mirroring burdens of disease that are near universal. Those with resources, money, and power, often majority racial or ethnic groups, are better able to physically distance, work from home, and retain their employment.

Our focus should be on health as a state of not being sick to begin with, grounded in an approach that balances the health of all in all our actions. We must recognise that unless we invest in the preventive conditions of health—like safe housing, good schools, liveable wages, gender equity, clean air, drinkable water, and a more equal economy—any action we take during this and any future pandemic is likely to widen entrenched health gaps. And that situation should be unacceptable to all of us.

Last modified: July 21, 2020

Language: English