Chapter Five: Justice

Lawrence Gostin and Eric Friedman (1 May 2020), “Health Inequalities,” The Hastings Center Report
Gostin and Friedman examine the causes of health inequalities. They consider how COVID-19 highlights health inequalities in North America and across the globe, and they describe ways to measure and address those inequalities.

Andrew Potter (9 April 2020), “Growing Anxiety in Indigenous Communities over COVID-19” Policy for Pandemics [blog]
Potter argues that the Canadian government has failed to adequately ensure that Indigenous communities are prepared to face the COVID-19 pandemic. Health Infrastructure and housing remains inadequate, and many Indigenous communities still have long-term boil water advisories. The lack of clean water makes it nearly impossible to follow public health directives to “wash your hands,” and crowded housing makes it difficult to isolate the ill.

Emily A. Benfer and Lindsay F. Wiley (19 March 2020), “Health Justice Strategies to Combat COVID-19: Protecting Vulnerable Communities During A Pandemic,” Health Affairs [blog]
Benfer and Wiley consider a wide range of the social determinants of health and examine how these arise in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. They describe responsibilities to protect the health of vulnerable communities at the federal, state, and local levels. They emphasize the importance of protecting workers, halting evictions and utility shut-offs, protecting the homeless, promoting affordable housing, enforcing safe and healthy homes regulations, providing access to food and necessities, and protecting civil liberties.

Shelley Tremain (1 April 2020), “COVID-19 and The Naturalization of Vulnerability,” Biopolitical Philosophy [blog]
Many discussions of COVID-19, including many readings in The Ethics of Pandemics, emphasize the need to protect “vulnerable” groups. Tremain takes issue with the way ‘vulnerability’ is thus naturalized and considered to be an inherent characteristic determined by age, genetics, disability, or other biological features. Tremain argues that vulnerability is not an inherent characteristic, but instead something created by systematic institutional failures, catalyzed and exacerbated by austerity measures. These groups are not “vulnerable”; rather, they are rendered vulnerable by political decisions – they are vulnerableized. Tremain provides a Foucauldian analysis of how groups are “vulnerableized through (for instance) the asymmetrical relations of power that discipline virtually every aspect of their (institutionalized) daily lives”.

Ling San Lau, et al. (8 April 2020), “COVID-19 in humanitarian settings and lessons learned from past epidemics,” Nature
Ling San Lau et al. detail the ways in which pandemic responses disproportionately affect refugee populations. Typically, in a pandemic, scarce medical supplies are diverted away from these groups, and little is then left to treat displaced persons who need care. Displaced persons and the health-care professionals who serve them need access to personal protective equipment, yet it is often scarce in refugee camps. Displaced persons are also at risk from populist rhetoric that blames “foreigners” for the emergence of infectious diseases.

Alex Broadbent on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic and response in Africa
This links to Broadbent’s entire series of articles at The Conversation. Many of these articles examine the COVID-19 response on the African continent.