Considering social inequalities in health in COVID-19 response: insights from a French case study

Richard, Z., Chabrol, F., Gautier, L., Zinszer, K., & Ridde, V. (2023, février)

Health Promotion International

Vol. 38/ Issue 1 | 11 p.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the impact of social inequalities in health (SIH). Various studies have shown significant inequalities in mortality and morbidity associated with COVID-19 and the influence of social determinants of health. The objective of this qualitative case study was to analyze the consideration of SIH in the design of two key COVID-19 prevention and control interventions in France: testing and contact tracing. Interviews were conducted with 36 key informants involved in the design of the intervention and/or the government response to the pandemic as well as relevant documents (n = 15) were reviewed. We applied data triangulation and a hybrid deductive and inductive analysis to analyze the data. Findings revealed the divergent understandings and perspectives about SIH, as well as the challenges associated with consideration for these at the beginning stages of the pandemic. Despite a shared concern for SIH between the participants, an epidemiological frame of reference dominated the design of the intervention. It resulted in a model in which consideration for SIH appeared as a complement, with a clinical goal of the intervention: breaking the chain of COVID-19 transmission. Although the COVID-19 health crisis highlighted the importance of SIH, it did not appear to be an opportunity to further their consideration in response efforts. This article provides original insights into consideration for SIH in the design of testing and contact-tracing interventions based upon a qualitative investigation.