Health disparities & COVID-19 lecture

For Social Problems, an introductory level sociological course, I gave a lecture that combines an introduction to health disparities and some issues of disparate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s 23 minutes. Some slides and links below.

The first half describes the theory of fundamental causes (as I understand it), and has some basic health disparities examples. Here are some graphs:

Then I apply some of the ideas to what we know about COVID-19 impacts, and likely problem areas. Here is some of that:

The PowerPoint slides, with references in the notes, is up here:


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3 responses to “Health disparities & COVID-19 lecture

  1. Anne Pollock

    Thanks for posting this, Philip, pursuasively highlighting many ways in which the impacts of COVID-19 are continuous with broader health disparities as well as elements more specific to this pandemic such as stratification among who can work from home. An additional element more specific to this pandemic that I wonder you may know more about is the impact of intergenerational interdependence, especially intergenerational cohabitation? Intergenerational cohabitation is of course also related to resources — who can afford to set up and maintain a household, including for example who among the elderly can afford to live alone and who among young parents can afford to pay for childcare. It is also cultural — who expects adult children or the elderly to either be financially self-sufficient or to manage consequences of economic constraints independently. Intergenerational intimacy within families seems to have been having a significant impact on coronavirus death rates in Europe, by contributing to increased exposure to disease among the elderly in Italy in Spain, relative to Germany and Scandinavia. Within the U.K., it seems to be contributing to elevated risk among Black and Minority Ethnic elders relative to White British elders. I wonder if you or anyone in your circles has done related research in the U.S.?


    • Hi Anne,
      Wow that is a great question. I had not thought of that. Within household transmission has not been a big issue here, meaning people have not talked about it much but of course it is happening a lot. This could have a lot to do with higher mortality rates in minority communities. Thank you.


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