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Population health, economics and ethics in the age of COVID-19
  1. Sanjay G Reddy
  1. Economics, The New School for Social Research, New York, New York, USA
  1. Correspondence to Professor Sanjay G Reddy; reddysanjayg{at}


Are the steps that have been taken to arrest the spread of COVID-19 justifiable? Specifically, are they likely to have improved public health understood according to widely used aggregate population health measures, such as Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALYs) and Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) as much or more than alternatives? This is a reasonable question, since such measures have been promoted extensively in global and national health policy by influential actors, and they have become almost synonymous with quantification of public health. If the steps taken against COVID-19 did not meet this test, then either the measures or the policies must be re-evaluated. There are indications that policies against COVID-19 may have been unbalanced and therefore not optimal. A balanced approach to protecting population health should be proportionate in its effects across distinct health concerns at a moment, across populations over time and across populations over space. These criteria provide a guide to designing and implementing policies that diminish harm from COVID-19 while also providing due attention to other threats to aggregate population health. They should shape future policies in response to this pandemic and others.

  • health economics
  • health policy
  • indices of health and disease and standardisation of rates
  • public health

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  • Contributors I am the sole author of this work.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement All data relevant to the study are included in the article.

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