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COVID-19: 1 in 5 People?!

Overview and Implications

Emory University has officially stated we will be returning to campus for Fall 2020. It is imperative to continue to be aware of new insights regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, especially as more and more universities are allowing students to return to campus for classes in the fall (Inside Higher Ed, 2020). A new modeling study published in The Lancet Global Health journal’s Online First Articles now suggests that one in five individuals around the world have an increased risk of being infected by COVID-19.

Prior to this revolutionary modeling study conducted in the UK, what was mostly communicated was that individuals who are older and/or have underlying health conditions that make them immunocompromised are at a significantly higher risk of being affected by COVID-19. Younger people seemed, according to the media, to be spared. However, the goal of the researchers of the aforementioned project was to estimate the number of people that are at an increased risk of being infected by COVID-19 to provide detailed information for government officials in order to assist with the creation of policies associated with the development of vaccines, reopenings of nations, etc.

In regards to how the study was conducted, the published article indicates that the parameters that have been utilized are those that were suggested by the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study (GBD) from 2017; these parameters were the risky underlying conditions themselves (that are now deemed relevant for COVID-19), sex, and country of residence. More specifically, the underlying conditions that were studied are those that were mentioned by the GBD study, World Health Organization (WHO), and other health organizations found in the United Kingdom and the United States. For reference, the article states that people who are considered to be at an increased risk in regards to COVID-19 are from “countries with older populations, African countries with high HIV/AIDS prevalence, and small island nations with high diabetes prevalence” (Clark et al., 2020). Additionally, these aforementioned individuals are those who are sensitive to diseases such as chronic respiratory disease and diabetes. Additionally, the population estimates that were utilized by the researchers are those of 2020 from the United Nations (UN). The researchers even used previously calculated data such as the numbers of people that are typically considered to have an increased risk of being infected by COVID-19 due to age (typically between the ages of 50 and 70 years old).

Future Directions

As time goes on, more and more research projects will be conducted upon the topic of COVID-19. A potential future direction could be to build off of the aforementioned research modeling study and learn more about topics that were omitted. For example, the estimations that were made did not consider factors such as ethnicity, socioeconomic status, etc. Instead, underlying health conditions were the main focus. Therefore, the proposed proportion of 1 in 5 is not fully accurate and cannot be said with certainty, but can serve as inspiration for future studies that focus on factors such as socioeconomic status, for example.

Article Reviewed

Clark, Andrew, et al. “Global, Regional, and National Estimates of the Population at Increased Risk of Severe COVID-19 Due to Underlying Health Conditions in 2020: a Modelling Study.” The Lancet Global Health, 2020, doi:10.1016/s2214-109x(20)30264-3.


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