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Prof. Christopher Adolph on the IHME news, "The Lancet: Largest US state-by-state analysis of COVID-19 impact reveals the driving forces behind variations in health, education, and economic performance "

Submitted by Stephen Dunne on March 28, 2023 - 12:43pm

Prof. Christopher Adolph and UW Political Science graduates of the department (Bree Bang Jensen, Carolyn Dapper, Megan Erickson and Beatrice Magistro) published a paper in The Lancet, and reported in the University of Washington School of Medicine's, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).

"Although the USA has the largest economy, spends more on health care than any other country, and was ranked as best prepared for a pandemic in the Global Health Security Index in 2020 (data collected prior to the pandemic), it maintains the highest number of recorded COVID-19 deaths and one of the highest per capita fatality rates from COVID-19 globally. But the pandemic did not impact US states equally."

The five major points:

  • Four-fold variation in standardised COVID-19 death rates across US states between January 2020 and July 2022 – with death rates lowest in Hawaii, New Hampshire, and Maine and highest in Arizona, Washington, DC, and New Mexico.
  • COVID-19 exploited and compounded existing local racial inequities, health disparities, and partisan politics, resulting in a disproportionate burden of COVID-19 on communities of colour and in states that voted heavily Republican in the 2020 presidential election.
  • No link otherwise between state governors' political affiliation and COVID-19 death rates.
  • States that imposed more vaccine and mask mandates experienced lower infection rates but tended to have worse employment rates and student test results, yet did not fare worse economically.
  • Authors call for clear, transparent, and timely communication of findings to rebuild public trust in public health and the future pandemic response.

The authors noted that political persuasion did play a role in how states implemented local decisions, "The analysis suggests that partisan politics played a nuanced role in state-level COVID-19 outcomes. No association was found between the political affiliation of the state governor and death rates from COVID-19. Five of the 10 states with the lowest standardised death rates—Vermont, New Hampshire, Maryland, Ohio, and Nebraska—were Republican-led, with the other five best-performing states led by Democrat governors. However, a key predictor of infections and total COVID-19 deaths was the share of the state that voted Republican in the 2020 presidential election.

Political partisanship also influenced local decisions about how Americans use the health system. In states that voted heavily Democratic in the 2020 presidential election, vaccine coverage was associated with stronger health systems (e.g., more health workers and physicians, fewer uninsured). In heavily Republican states, however, the analysis found no link between health system factors and the adoption of protective behaviours, such as vaccination."

Please link here for the IHME news article.

Link here for the full paper on Prof. Adolph's page.