COVID-19 in Latin America: inequalities and response capacity of health systems to health emergencies

dos Santos et al.


To identify correlations between COVID-19, demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, and the capacity of Latin American health systems to respond to health emergencies.


An ecological study was performed using secondary data from 20 Latin American countries regarding incidence, mortality, testing and vaccination coverage for COVID-19 from 2020 to 2021 as well as demographic and socioeconomic indicators. The preparedness of countries to respond to health emergencies was explored based on the 2019 State Party Self-Assessment Annual Report on the implementation of the International Health Regulations (IHR). Statistical analyses were performed using the Spearman correlation test (rho).


A high positive correlation was noted between gross domestic product per capita and the human development index with the incidence of COVID-19, testing, and vaccination coverage; and between the proportion of elderly population and vaccination coverage. No correlations were identified between the COVID-19 indicators and previous IHR implementation capacities.


The lack of correlation between indicators related to COVID-19 and the ability to implement the IHR may reflect limitations of the indicators used or of the IHR monitoring tool as an instrument that induces the preparedness of countries to face health emergencies. The results suggest the importance of structural conditioning factors and the need for longitudinal, comparative, and qualitative studies to understand the factors that influenced the response of countries to COVID-19.

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