Lancet Magazine Editor-in-Chief Richard Horton said the coronavirus epidemic was not a pandemic, but a syndemia. So what does this phenomenon that comes up from time to time mean? What are the things that distinguish between pandemic and syndemia?
A new topic of discussion has erupted in Wuhan, China, regarding the coronavirus epidemic that has spread all over the world. Richard Horton, who works as the editor-in-chief of the medical journal Lancet, said that the studies conducted so far are aimed at controlling the spread of the disease, but the studies are insufficient because the coronavirus is actually not a pandemic, but a syndemia.
In fact, the number of experts who think like Horton cannot be underestimated. Because some scientists believe that some outbreaks such as COVID-19 cannot be solved only medically. At this point, the phenomenon of syndemia emerges. So what exactly is sindemia? What separates the pandemic from syndemia?
Sindemi is a combination of synergy and pandemic
The phenomenon called syndemi is a combination of synergy and pandemic words. This phenomenon means that an epidemic cannot be considered independent of social conditions. When we reduce this phenomenon to coronavirus and explain it, we see the presence of the virus named SARS-CoV-2 on the one hand, and the presence of previously critical diseases such as heart, diabetes and cancer on the other hand. These two issues open the door to a much more troublesome process, especially in societies with high inequality.
In fact, the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres also touched on this situation. Making a statement at the beginning of 2020, Guterres said that the epidemic will affect the most vulnerable people, those living in poverty, the disabled, women and children, marginalized groups and poor people.
A scientist named Merrill Singer first used the term sindemia in the 90’s. The scientist, who conducted a study on drug addiction and illnesses common in poor people in the USA, said that the effect of a disease combined with another disease is much greater than the sum of the two, which is called syndemia. This term has become used today for the coronavirus outbreak.
Have the efforts to combat the epidemic so far not worked?
If we accept the coronavirus epidemic as a pandemic, we can say that the studies conducted are accurate. However, if the coronavirus epidemic was indeed syndemic as Singer and Horton advocated, it is an undeniable fact that the studies so far have been very insufficient. Because scientists who think like Singer state that in order to slow the effect of the epidemic and save the world, social conditions should be taken into account and studies should be carried out.
According to the latest statements made by Singer, if it is desired to get rid of coronavirus or another epidemic, measures should be taken against existing diseases and problems with the relevant epidemic. For example, it should be much easier for poor people to access health services and basic food. In addition, the coronavirus epidemic strategies should be changed completely and brand new studies should be carried out. Because, according to Singer, humanity will continue to invade natural habitats and harm nature. This will lead to the emergence of new epidemics and similar events.
Richard Horton, who defends exactly this idea, says that the treatment or the vaccine alone will not work. The important thing against the epidemic, in addition to the availability of treatment or vaccine, is to eliminate social problems, to eliminate deep inequalities. Time will tell how governments will look at these calls.