Talks of new normal fail to incorporate lessons from two years of COVID
Researchers are warning political and health leaders against national strategies for a new normal of life with COVID-19. They say doing so fails to incorporate important lessons from the first two years of the pandemic: the significant role of noncommunicable chronic diseases in exacerbating COVID-19 and the disproportionate burden on underserved populations and communities of color.
The warning was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
Jun Ma, of the University of Illinois Chicago, is a co-author states that together, the COVID-19 pandemic and the chronic disease crisis create what is called a synergistic endemic, or syndemic — overlapping epidemics that interact, increasing the burden of disease and the likelihood of poor outcomes. Recent proposals for a new normal national strategy in the U.S. focus too much on the SARS-CoV-2 virus and too little on the context in which the virus’ impact is most burdensome, she said.
Ma and her co-author, James Sallis, of the University of California San Diego, cite data published in medical literature showing how noncommunicable chronic diseases have created high susceptibility to severe and fatal COVID-19 outcomes and contributed to racial and ethnic inequities. For example:
The authors also recommend “practical, immediately actionable steps” for incorporating the prevention and control of chronic diseases into existing COVID-19 policies and infrastructure. For example:
Agencies like CMS and state and local governments would need to prioritize supportive reimbursement and funding policies for these steps to be realized, but that the benefits would be felt by individuals and communities through more awareness, information and opportunity for managing their health, according to Ma.