COVID-19 is not a pandemic, but a syndemic, according to The Lancet

Galarraga Aiestaran, Ana

Elhuyar Zientzia

Considering the crisis as a sindemia would mean taking more appropriate measures to combat it. Ed. FAO/Max Valencia/CC-BY-SA

The Lancet magazine, through a recent editorial, calls for changing the perspective to combat covid-19. According to him, a virus has been considered the only responsible for the crisis and all interventions have been aimed at preventing the transmission of this virus. Government-led “science” has been based primarily on epidemic and medical models. But, for the editor, what we have learned so far says that COVID-19 is not so simple.

The disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 converges with some non-communicable diseases in which social and economic inequalities significantly affect. These differences aggravate the severity of SARS-CoV2 infection. Thus, according to The Lancet, covid-19 is not a pandemic, but a sindemic.

The concept of sindemia was created in the 1990s by anthropologist Merrill Singer. A synergistic approach takes into account biological and social interactions and this shift in focus affects disease prevention, prognosis, treatment and health policy.

Because sindemia is not a comorbidity. Syndemics are characterized by the biological and social interaction between conditions and situations, which accentuate the tendency to harm or worsen the health of people. In the case of COVID-19, it is essential to take into account the importance of non-communicable diseases (cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s…) to adequately address the crisis.

As The Lancet explained, the main consequence of considering covid-19 as a syndemic is the emphasis on social conditioning and the evidence that the search for a simple biomedical solution at covid-19 will fail. “As long as they don’t design policies and programs to change big inequalities, our societies will never be really safe from covid-19,” the editorial says. And he adds: “The economic crisis that comes to us will not solve one or a vaccine.” It therefore invites a broader vision that includes education, employment, housing, food and the environment.

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