A report today from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) shows that COVID-19 reduced life expectancy across the Americas while amplifying economic inequities and existing health disparities.
The publication, "Health in the Americas 2022," assessed the health status of the region 2 years after the pandemic began.
The Americas house 13% of the world's population, but the region has recorded 37% of confirmed COVID-19 cases and 45% of deaths globally.
Health expectancy across the region fell to levels not seen since 2004. Life expectancy in Latin America and the Caribbean decreased from 75.1 years in 2019 to 72.2 in 2021, a decline of 2.9 years. In North America, expected lifespan dropped from 79.5 years in 2019 to 77.7 in 2021, or by 1.8 years.
In addition to declining life expectancy, both routine childhood immunization levels and mental health diagnoses have suffered under the veil of COVID-19. The number of vaccines administered to children has fallen dramatically, with routine complete immunization for the diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccine falling 3.6% between 2019 and 2021 (from 84% to 81%). Complete uptake of the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine declined from 75% to 68%, or 9.3%.
Mental health needs increase as services drop
The prevalence of depression has increased by 27.6%, and anxiety by 25.7%, relative to pre-pandemic levels, PAHO said. At the same time, 93% of countries in the region reported having significant disruptions in essential health services.
Notably, the authors of the report suggest the disruption in health services led to 1.7 million unplanned pregnancies, resulting in nearly 800,000 abortions, 2,900 maternal deaths, and nearly 39,000 infant deaths, representing a setback equivalent to
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