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Covid-19 increasing income related poor health by six times new research finds

Human Sciences Research Council and Wits University have found that income-related poor health in South Africa was six times worse than it was before the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Human Sciences Research Council and Wits University have found that income-related poor health in South Africa was six times worse than it was before the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Published Sep 7, 2020

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Durban - RESEARCHERS from the Human Sciences Research Council and Wits University have found that income-related poor health in South Africa was six times worse than it was before the coronavirus pandemic.

The research was published in The Conversation.

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“Poor health was more than proportionately concentrated on the poor. However, the magnitude of income-related inequality in poor health in the Covid-19 period was about six times that of the pre-Covid-19 period, suggesting that the crisis affected the health of the poor far more than the relatively well-off. Furthermore, income-related health inequalities were more pronounced among men han women in both periods.”

According to the research, factors that predicted income-related health inequalities were race (African in relation to white), household income, household experience of hunger and employment, among others.

“They accounted for 130%, 46%, 9% and 13% respectively of income-related health inequality, with all four factors contributing to worsening income-related health inequality.”

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They said there was an urgent need to address hunger.

The researchers suggested that a zero-rated basket of foodstuffs include more basic and essential foodstuffs to alleviate poverty in the country.

“This research also reinforces the fact that high income inequality has far-reaching consequences for health.

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It is therefore imperative that the country speeds up comprehensive reforms especially regarding labour market access, welfare and access to quality healthcare. Perhaps, the effective and efficient implementation of the National Health Insurance Scheme will help in ushering in universal health coverage, thus enhancing equity in health care and better health outcomes for the poor. We hope that these measures and reforms will make for an inclusive economy driven by a healthy population during and after the current health crisis.”

Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group researcher Dr Julie Smith said what the report found was not new.

She said the important question was whether people’s bodies were prepared to handle a pandemic.

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Smith said South Africa had a high disease burden where 13% of the population was HIV positive and when it came to dealing with a disease like Covid-19 the country was always going to be on the backfoot.

She said for a programme like the NHI to work, a country had to have a healthy population.

Smith said there needed to be a focus on preventative health care to ensure people had no need to go to hospital in the first place.

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