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Incorporating equity in infectious disease modeling: Case study of a distributional impact framework for measles transmission.

Abstract

Here, we aimed to explore the influence of integrating income-associated differences in parameters of traditional dynamic transmission models. We developed a measles SIR model, in which the Susceptible, Infected and Recovered classes were stratified by income quintile, with income-specific transmission rates, disease-induced mortality rates, and vaccination coverage levels. We further provided a stylized illustration with secondary data from Ethiopia, where we examined various scenarios demonstrating differences in transmission patterns by income and in distributional vaccination coverage, and quantified impacts on disparities in measles mortality.

The incorporation of income-specific differences can reveal distinct outbreak patterns across income groups and important differences in the subsequent effects of preventative interventions like vaccination. Our case study highlights the need to extend traditional modeling frameworks (e.g. SIR models) to be stratified by socioeconomic factors like income and to consider ensuing income-associated differences in disease-related morbidity and mortality. In so doing, we build on existing tools and characterize ongoing challenges in achieving health equity.

The income-stratified SIR model exhibited similar dynamics to that of the traditional SIR model, with amplified outbreak peaks and measles mortality among the poorest income group. All vaccination coverage strategies were found to substantially curb the overall number of measles deaths, yet most considerably for the poorest, with select strategies yielding clear reductions in measles mortality disparities.

Deterministic compartmental models of infectious diseases like measles typically reflect biological heterogeneities in the risk of infection and severity to characterize transmission dynamics. Given the known association of socioeconomic status and increased vulnerability to infection and mortality, it is also critical that such models further incorporate social heterogeneities.

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