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favelas in Rio de Janeiro

Brazil, December 1, 2022

(SALVADOR) – A recent study published in the PLOS One journal reports that deaths caused by COVID-19 in Brazilian residents were tied to the city they reside. Results showed higher mortality rates in urban centers with greater inequality and income segregation.


The research, from the Urban Health in Latin America project (Urban Health in Latin America, or SALURBAL), highlighted that in more unequal cities there was a raise of 17% in mortality, whereas in more segregated cities there were 11% more deaths.


According to the researchers, understanding how inequality and income segregation contribute to the excess mortality from COVID-19 in Brazilian cities is essential for the proposal of public health policies that aim to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.


“Despite the close relationship between inequality and income segregation, it stands out that inequality reflects issues related to the global allocation of resources in a society, while segregation is related to the spatial dimension of this problem, which isolates and makes vulnerable the most deprived populations”, said Firmino Sousa Filho, lead author of the study.


The authors also mention that the greater the inequality and segregation of income, the worse the conditions of access to health and the vulnerability to COVID-19 increases significantly. When the rent is concentrated in the custody of a few individuals, and since infectious diseases are a collective social problem, there is no context for the formulation of unified measures of public and social health, essential to combat pandemics.


Moreover, through the implementation of consistent long-term policies, socioeconomic inequalities can be permanently reduced, allowing public agents to better prepare to face future health crises. Initiatives for cooperation and coordination at a global level are also relevant, especially for the sharing of experiences of low-income and medium-income countries such as Brazil.


Finally, it is imperative to emphasize that a high concentration of income harms social cohesion and undermines the confidence of the population in their government, affecting the overall response capacity to health crises. The fragmented political action and the total disarticulation of the Federal Government with other institutions are key factors in the promotion of inequalities in Brazil. These factors will lead the country to reach one of the highest rates of incidence and mortality from COVID-19 in the world.


To access the publication, click here.

In addition to Firmino Sousa Filho, other authors of the study are: Uriel Silva (UFMG); Larissa Lima (CEFET-MG); Aureliano Paiva (CIDACS); Gervasio Santos (UFBA/CIDACS); Roberto Andrade (UFBA/CIDACS); Nelson Gouveia (USP); Ismael Silveira (UFBA); Amélia Friche (UFMG); Maurício Barreto (CIDACS); Waleska Caiaffa (UFMG)

PLOS One is a monthly scientific journal focused on original peer-reviewed research in all areas of medicine based on its originality, applicability, interdisciplinary interest, and impact on improving human health.

SALURBAL (Urban Health in Latin America) is a research project that studies how urban policies and urban environments affect the health of residents of Latin American cities. The results of this project will serve as a benchmark to inform future policies and interventions to make cities healthier, more equitable and environmentally sustainable around the world. The SALURBAL project is funded by the Wellcome Trust Foundation.