The COVID-19 quandemic

Olivier Rubin, Carina King*, Johan von Schreeb, Claudia Morsut, Gyöngyi Kovacs, Emmanuel Raju

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Background
The terms syndemic and infodemic have both been applied to the COVID-19 pandemic, and emphasize concurrent socio-cultural dynamics that are distinct from the epidemiological outbreak itself. We argue that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed yet another important socio-political dynamic that can best be captured by the concept of a quandemic – a portmanteau of “quantification” and “pandemic”.
Main text
The use of quantifiable metrics in policymaking and evaluation has increased throughout the last decades, and is driven by a synergetic relationship between increases in supply and advances in demand for data. In most regards this is a welcome development. However, a quandemic, refers to a situation where a small subset of quantifiable metrics dominate policymaking and the public debate, at the expense of more nuanced and multi-disciplinary discourse. We therefore pose that a quandemic reduces a complex pandemic to a few metrics that present an overly simplified picture. During COVID-19, these metrics were different iterations of case numbers, deaths, hospitalizations, diagnostic tests, bed occupancy rates, the R-number and vaccination coverage. These limited metrics came to constitute the internationally recognized benchmarks for effective pandemic management.
Based on experience from the Nordic region, we propose four distinct dynamics that characterize a quandemic: 1) A limited number of metrics tend to dominate both political, expert, and public spheres and exhibit a great deal of rigidity over time. 2) These few metrics crowd-out other forms of evidence relevant to pandemic response. 3) The metrics tend to favour certain outcomes of pandemic management, such as reducing hospitalization rates, while not capturing potential adverse effects such as social isolation and loneliness. 4) Finally, the metrics are easily standardized across countries, and give rise to competitive dynamics based on international comparisons and benchmarking.
Conclusion
A quandemic is not inevitable. While metrics are an indispensable part of evidence-informed policymaking, being attentive to quandemic dynamics also means identifying relevant evidence that might not be captured by these few but dominant metrics. Pandemic responses need to account for and consider multilayered vulnerabilities and risks, including socioeconomic inequities and comorbidities.
Original languageEnglish
Article number19
Peer-reviewed scientific journalGlobalization and Health
Volume20
Issue number19
Pages (from-to)1-5
Number of pages5
ISSN1744-8603
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 02.03.2024
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed

Keywords

  • 314,2 Public health care science, environmental and occupational health
  • COVID-19
  • Nordic region
  • information
  • quantification

Areas of Strength and Areas of High Potential (AoS and AoHP)

  • AoHP: Humanitarian and societal logistics

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