Vulnerability, social triage and the COVID-19 pandemic

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Chloe G K Atkins
Andrea Whiteley



If we are concerned about managing pandemics better, we need to secure and ameliorate the lives of all vulnerable people, including those with disabilities, people of colour, immigrants, seniors, and low-income essential workers who have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Before the pandemic even started, these groups had been “triaged” away from care by their social and economic circumstances, where structural features of their lives made them more susceptible to the physical dangers of COVID-19. This commentary article argues that the social determinants of health (SDOH) must be taken into account to create better living and working conditions for our most vulnerable citizens. By adopting a macroscopic perspective that re-examines cultural biases, safety regulations, labour laws, building codes, urban-planning and socio-economic policies, our society will be better equipped to weather global pandemics or other crises in the future.