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Determinants of Health

Introduction to Covid-19 in Australia

The COVID 19 pandemic has gripped the entire world and has impacted hundreds and thousands of people worldwide. It is a pervasive disease that has gripped almost all cultures and nationalities. Australia is also one of the countries that has been affected by the corona virus pandemic and has thus far shown an improved response in comparison to other countries in the world (Wyeth, 2020). It has so far been among the more successful nations in the world, to slow the spread of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19). There are no specific reasons or explanations for it. However, a combination of factors including political, economic, geographical and social such as the stable political system, early response to the pandemic, the wealth of the nation and the fact that it is geographically more isolated than other nations has also helped (Wyeth, 2020). Even though this combination along with early precautions of physical distancing might also have been contributing factors in its relative success, there still exist some economic and social impacts of the pandemic that have been of greater consequences for the nation (O’Sullivan et al., 2020). The aim of this paper is to discuss the threat imposed by this pandemic and the country’s response. The various sections will also discuss the social determinants surrounding the pandemic.

Contributing Factors for Success

A variety of factors in terms of political, economic and social contributed to the better response of the country to the pandemic. It can be defined as one of the countries that were able to adopt and put into practice an early response in terms of public health (Smith, 2020). This early response helped in limiting and reducing the transmission of COVID-19 through the community. It also helped in reduction in the number of deaths and mortalities due to corona as compared to other settings. Also, it helped in reduction of the visits of patients for acute hospitalizations (Shakespeare-Finch et al., 2020). The political will of the government in terms of establishing a national level coordination between the state and the territorial governments and the commonwealth was showcased in the country. An extra constitutional national cabinet was formed in March, 2020 which helped in strategizing a national level response for the pandemic at the earliest (Prime minister of Australia, 2020). Thus, political will as one of the determinants of the spread of COVID-19 was useful in containing the disease.

Other determinants involved in the epidemiology and spread of the COVID-19 disease include the expenditure of the government on health and the health infrastructure along with the size of the population (Smith et al., 2020). It is said that lesser the population density, the lesser the extent of spread of the disease. As observed in the case of Australia, lesser cases of contamination and spread were observed in the initial days due to early interventions and less population density. Also, most of the cases were noted and recorded from the urban and semi-urban areas of Sydney and Melbourne. This observation was noted till March 31, 2020 where people interacting more socially and physically are involved in greater spread of the disease (The Guardian, 2020). Intervention measures introduced in Australia prevented the pandemic continuing along the trends of the world. It helped in curbing the devastating growth that is seen in other countries affected by COVID-19. Specific measures such as closure of schools, social distancing and physical distancing policies, reduction in mass gatherings, and optimal combinations of specific health interventions which were balanced against the social and economic ramifications people faced due to the preventive strategy of complete lockdown that was applied by the government in a very early phase (Chang et al., 2020).

Although, Australia was able to bend the curve and reduce the mortality and morbidity caused due to COVID-19, there were ramifications faced by people based on their socio-economic characteristics and conditions. People who are already poor and in a vulnerable state especially the Aboriginal people, either underemployed or unemployed, with debts and homelessness or reduced access to health care services and social services are more prone to be further marginalized because of the pandemic and become more prone to the spread of the disease. Associated vulnerability and further marginalization increased their vulnerability to mental and physical illnesses, both (Yashadhana et al., 2020). Also, economic considerations also had an impact on the not-for profit organizations and charities working for assistance. Hence, their services decreased and reduced their ability to help out in the pandemic and fundraise as well. So, better socio-economic conditions and improved accessibility to health and social services reduced the chances of spread of disease in most of the populations of the country except the people coming from the background of diversity and multi-cultural and multi-lingual backgrounds such as the Aboriginals and the islanders (Philanthropy Australia 2020).

Determinants of Health Related to Covid-19

Demographic data for the spread of COVID-19 in Australia shows that the group mostly represented in the confirmed cases according to the statistics by the Australian government is people who are in their 20s. It is attributed to the fact that they are most likely to socialize and travel and party with the travelers who are returning. Data from the federal health department shows that 11.3% of confirmed cases of the corona virus in Australia belong to the age group of 25 to 29, which is followed by 9.5% in the age group of 60 to 65 – the cruise ship cohort – and 9.3% are in the age group of 20 to 25. People who are 80 and older account for only 2.7% of the confirmed cases of Covid-19 but a greater number of deaths that is around 47% (Federal Health Department , 2020). This is due to the greater exposure to diseases, pre-existing conditions and reduced immune status as compared to the other population groups. Also, Australia shows a greater number of ageing population as compared to other countries. As of 31 March, only 19 people had died after testing positive to Covid-19 in Australia (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2020).

Women in the younger age group are contracting COVID-19 in huge numbers. Data from the Department of health as of April, 2020 shows that around 500 females have contracted the virus and in the age group of 20 and 29. They have surpassed their male counterparts by about a 100 cases. This age group is making most of the cases followed by those in the age group of 60-69 years. Every other age group shows men contracting the disease more. It is explained that the social lives of women in this age group and their habits of travelling and maintaining active social lives is to blame for the same (Wilkie, 2020). More death rates in the older age group are attributed to decreasing innate immunity with age in the older individuals. Also, the presence of pre-existing conditions and diseases of the older age population makes it difficult for adequate recovery and prompt treatment. Therefore, they are unable to fight off the virus easily (Wilkie, 2020).

Reflection on Determinants of Health

The determinants of health reflect the social and physical conditions of the environment in which the individual is born, lives, works and plays. Another contributing factor would be considered age and gender. These determinants are responsible for the over-all impact they have on health and functioning of an individual as observed in the case of COVID-19 and its impact in Australia (Stojkoski et al., 2020). The socio-economic status of individuals and over-all communities is by far the central most important determinant of health. It determines the other factors affecting or determining the health and health outcome for people and populations. It relates to their living, food , water, education and employment access. It also determines access to health and healthcare services. All these factors determine the health outcome on an individual. The socio-economic status determines the living conditions, sanitation, neighborhoods and the conditions of living and employment of the person (Yashadhana et al., 2020).

As in the case of initial spread of COVID-19, it was spreading through people on international travels, more socialization, as depicted as one factor for increased rate of occurrence in women. This determinant is also based on the economic condition of the individual and the communities. Therefore, initial spread was confined to the urban areas and suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney. Also, since the population density in urban areas is lesser as compared to rural areas, there was lower rate of initial spread of infection. The socioeconomic status also influences the accessibility to healthy food and nutrition which helps in building innate immunity in an individual. Accessibility to good nutrition and healthy lifestyle is also determined by the socio-economic conditions of an individual. More healthy nutrition, better is the immune status of the individuals and the communities (Rollston, 2020). It reflects negatively on the assumptions that better the socio-economic status, lesser are the chances of contracting a disease as it did not happen in the case of Covid-19. However, the spread and epidemiology of the disease confirms the idea that people with improved socio-economic condition and status have improved outcomes as compared to population with a lesser accessibility to better socio-economic conditions (Smith et al., 2020). The existing social and health inequities in the Aboriginal people and Indigenous people in the country has led to a more differential response to the pandemic in the country (Power et al., 2020)

Conclusion on Covid-19 in Australia

The impact and spread of COVID-19 has been better as compared to other countries in terms of reduced deaths and better response. The response of the government and the social, economic and political factors affecting its containment and spread were also discussed. The social conditions and determinants affecting the spread of disease or curbing the spread of disease in specific communities portrayed how the disadvantageous population is suffering from exclusion and how the socio-economic conditions of individuals affects the status of health of individuals and their health outcomes as well. It becomes imperative to address the social determinants affecting the spread of COVID-19 to help improve the existing condition and the differential mortality and morbidity caused by the same in different sections of the community.

References for Covid-19 in Australia

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2020. Australian bureau of statistics report on COVID-19.

Chang, S. L., Harding, N., Zachreson, C., Cliff, O. M., &Prokopenko, M. (2020). Modeling transmission and control of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia. Cornell University, 2003(10218).

O’Sullivan, D., Rahamathulla, M., &Pawar, M. (2020). The Impact and implications of COVID-19: An Australian perspective. The International Journal of Community and Social Development2(2), 134-151.

Philanthropy Australia , 2020. Philanthropy Australia report.

Power, T., Wilson, D., Best, O., Brockie, T., Bourque Bearskin, L., Millender, E., & Lowe, J. (2020). COVID‐19 and Indigenous Peoples: an imperative for action. Journal of Clinical Nursing.

Rollston, R., & Galea, S. (2020). COVID-19 and the Social Determinants of Health. Sage Publications.

Shakespeare-Finch, J., Bowen-Salter, H., Cashin, M., Badawi, A., Wells, R., Rosenbaum, S., & Steel, Z. (2020). COVID-19: An Australian Perspective. Journal of Loss and Trauma, 1-11.

Smith, J. A., & Judd, J. (2020). COVID‐19: Vulnerability and the power of privilege in a pandemic. Health Promotion Journal of Australia31(2), 158.

Stojkoski, V., Utkovski, Z., Jolakoski, P., Tevdovski, D., &Kocarev, L. (2020).The socio-economic determinants of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Cornell University, 2004(10218).

Wahlquist, G (2020). Australians in their 20s have more conformed cases than in any other age group. The Guardian. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/31/australians-in-their-20s-have-more-confirmed-cases-of-coronavirus-than-any-other-age-group

Wilkie (2020). How women aged between 20 and 29 are most at risk of COVID-19 because of their social lives .Daily Mail. Retrieved from: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8173959/How-women-aged-20-29-risk-COVID-19-lifestyles.html

Wyeth (2020). How well has Australia managed COVID-19?. The Diplomat. Retreived from: https://thediplomat.com/2020/04/how-well-has-australia-managed-covid-19/

Yashadhana, A., Pollard-Wharton, N., Zwi, A. B., & Biles, B. (2020). Indigenous Australians at increased risk of COVID-19 due to existing health and socioeconomic inequities. The Lancet Regional Health–Western Pacific.

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