The worldwide spread of COVID-19 has brought to light the unpreparedness of health systems to cope with a global pandemic in both industrialized and developing nations alike. In a new Viewpoint article published in JAMA Psychiatry, UBC Psychiatry Assistant Professor Dr. Daniel Vigo, along with Professor Sir Graham Thornicroft of King’s College London, and Dr. Oye Gureje of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Mental Health, examines the differential impact of COVID-19 on the health, mental health, and livelihoods of people living in low-middle income countries (LMICs) in comparison to those in high-income countries (HICs).
The article highlights how, due to a variety of factors, the relatively lower numbers of reported COVID-19 cases and deaths in LMICs may not accurately represent the success of measures implemented, which have often involved heavy-handed and unsustainable lockdowns. The lack of effective, sustainable, and locally-developed policies in place to address COVID-19, alongside poverty, food insecurity, social disruption, and inadequate health and mental health support systems, could hence spell further disaster for these populations.
The article urges for industrialized nations and multilateral organizations to share in the burden and responsibility of mitigating the potential devastating toll of COVID-19 on the health and well-being of people living in LMICs. In addition to the sharing of medical equipment, PPE, treatments and other resources, HICs must undertake further measures, such as the suspension of debt repayments and providing other financing mechanisms, which will enable LMICs to develop and implement locally grounded, evidence-based policies and plans of action.
As the authors note, “The rationale for HICs to support these measures may be altruistic but is mainly pragmatic. It is altruistic in that, at a critical juncture where we are all forcefully connected by the pandemic, the global community needs to acknowledge that life-saving resources should be allocated in proportion to need. It is pragmatic because the alternative situation, in which industrialized nations gradually recover while the developing world lacks resources and becomes a reservoir in which the virus festers, is untenable.”
Read the entire article here.
For a broad perspective of how COVID-19 can be expected to affect mental health, please read the article recently published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, “Mental Health of Communities during the COVID-19 Pandemic,” also by Dr. Daniel Vigo, along with Dr. Scott Patten, Dr. Kathleen Pajer, Dr. Michael Krausz, Dr. Steven Taylor, Dr. Giuseppe Raviola, Dr. Shekhar Saxena, and Dr. Graham Thornicroft, and Dr. Lakshmi N. Yatham.
For faculty members who are interested in preparing and submitting a proposal for research on COVID-19 and mental health, or already have a proposal in progress, you are encouraged to contact Dr. Frangou at firstname.lastname@example.org in order to discuss how your proposal may be supported by the Department COVID-19 Research Strategy.