Environments, Behaviors, and Inequalities: Reflecting on the Impacts of the Influenza and Coronavirus Pandemics in the United States

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Jun 22;17(12):E4484. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17124484.


In the past century, dramatic shifts in demographics, globalization and urbanization have facilitated the rapid spread and transmission of infectious diseases across continents and countries. In a matter of weeks, the 2019 coronavirus pandemic devastated communities worldwide and reinforced the human perception of frailty and mortality. Even though the end of this pandemic story has yet to unfold, there is one parallel that is undeniable when a comparison is drawn between the 2019 coronavirus and the 1918 influenza pandemics. The public health response to disease outbreaks has remained nearly unchanged in the last 101 years. Furthermore, the role of environments and human behaviors on the effect and response to the coronavirus pandemic has brought to light many of the historic and contemporaneous inequalities and injustices that plague the United States. Through a reflection of these pandemic experiences, the American burden of disparity and disproportionality on morbidity, mortality and overall social determinants of health has been examined. Finally, a reimagination of a post-coronavirus existence has also been presented along with a discussion of possible solutions and considerations for moving forward to a new and better normal.

Keywords: coronavirus pandemic; health and social inequalities; influenza pandemic; social determinants of health.

Publication types

  • Review