We will use this space to publish ethical issues raised by global health current events. We welcome any and all comments.
The current question was raised by Katherine Andrus, a scholar in the global health law program at Georgetown’s O’Neill Institute:
Novel H1N1 is widely expected to have a much more severe impact on developing nations — but there has been almost no discussion of the disparate impact in the U.S. To wit: highest risk groups includes people with asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure — all of which are (I think) more prevalent in urban minority populations. One of the biggest challenges in terms of health care response is shortage of ER/ICU capacity — my guess is that this is a much bigger problem in [lower-income areas] than, say, in [neighborhoods with higher incomes]. And I’ve been reading in the Washington Post that vaccination rates are much lower in D.C. (especially east of the Anacostia) than in suburban areas (e.g., Montgomery County MD). Add these factors up and you have the makings of a real disaster in places like D.C., along the lines of HIV/AIDS. Is anyone looking at/analyzing this? It just seems strange that with everything that’s been written about novel H1N1 (and I think I’ve read most of it) no one seems to be addressing this point.