9. Global health and the post-covid era

Convenors: Sandra L. Trappen, Ph.D. (contact scholar) and Katherine McKlean, Ph.D., Penn State University,  Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania;  
Contacts: slt62@psu.edu, Sandra.trappen@gmail.com, kjm47@psu.edu 

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold across the world and has entered what some now describe as  its endemic stage. Despite the devastating impacts, the previous two years have offered insights into the  (dys)functioning of global public health services. Because health is socially patterned, we know that  population health experience is shaped by shared social circumstances, which include the transmission of  pathogens and behaviors as well as the consumption of knowledge and information. Public health systems  have been shown to be at risk when care is not taken to examine the underlying structures that shape  community access to health and well-being. That is to say, principles of social and economic justice are  bound together in the structuring of public health outcomes, understanding that the health of one  imbricates the health of all. 

Given this, renewed efforts must be made to improve health care access and outcomes among vulnerable  and marginalized populations, who tend to be socially invisible. Work must be undertaken to understand  what must be done to remove treatment barriers, reduce stigma, and improve care. For example, outreach  must be improved with groups who struggle with substance use disorders that have been rendered more  deadly due to COVID-19 and increased social isolation. Effective outreach must re-engage with practices  that emphasize harm reduction approaches (i.e. supervised use, needle exchange) as a form of treatment.  Health outreach focused on the special needs of migrants, youth groups, women, and elderly populations is  also critical. We identify a need for novel in-depth studies to inform policy and practice as it pertains to the  unique needs of structurally disadvantaged groups. Moreover, we request papers that draw from social  justice traditions to inform efforts to interpret and document group health experience. Papers might also  address the perspectives of the professionals who treat these groups as well as others with whom they may  have frequent contact (police, medical staff, clinic staff). While conference paper contributions might  address marginalized or vulnerable populations in any country, we are especially interested in small studies  focused on Italian, French, and Swiss populations. These geographic areas are under consideration for  future development, comparative research, and future publications. All papers, regardless of area focus,  should emphasize qualitative approaches to field research with a methodological focus on interviews,  ethnographic observations, narrative analysis, and qualitative analysis of needs assessments (and/or mixed  methods). 

Convenor Bios 

Sandra Trappen is an Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Penn State University. A sociologist by  training, she has over ten years of experience conducting qualitative research to analyze a range of  problems, including the sociology of violence and injury, guns, drug use/misuse, youth social identities, and  militant extremist mindsets (MEM). Her work draws from social justice and materialist perspectives to  explain how these problems arise out of a cultural framework driven by socioeconomic factors connected  to deindustrialization and post conflict society. Dr. Trappen has published on COVID-19, public health, and  criminology issues. Her current research looks at the roots of trauma and how this factors into  marginalization, drug use, and the use of firearms in committing crimes.  

Katherine McLean’s research explores the intersection between criminal justice and public health,  specifically considering how the simultaneous criminalization and medicalization of illicit drug use impacts  individual identity, community health, and other social institutions. She has organized research projects  that specifically deployed ethnographic methods within organizations that serve people who inject drugs  (PWID). She is particularly interested in “harm reduction” strategies, including syringe exchange and  supervised drug consumption sites. Her current research projects consider how social networks shape and 

are shaped by heroin and opioid use; why individuals choose to purchase opioid substitution medications  from extra-medical contexts; and how, and why, individuals access overdose prevention programs. She has  served as an Associate Editor at the International Journal of Drug Policy since 2016. 

List of broad and relevant open questions that conference contributions are expected to address.  
How can ethnographic research inform evidence-based practices and change health policy in ways that  have a wide-reaching public health impact?  

How are the vulnerabilities of marginalized groups bound up in the health outcomes of more widely  constituted general populations? 

How might public health practices be improved to alleviate barriers to care and reduce social isolation that  increases substance abuse and other forms of self-harm, including domestic violence? 

How did COVID-19 lockdowns specifically contribute to increasing the health vulnerability of marginalized  groups (impact on activities of daily living, especially as this relates to health-related behaviors and access  to services). 

How did COVID-19 and the lockdowns produce increased substance use among vulnerable groups? How did COVID-19 and the lockdowns increase the vulnerability of groups that are geographically isolated? 

How did COVID-19 and the lockdowns produce increased incidents of domestic violence among vulnerable  groups? 

How did COVID-19 and the lockdowns impact the social dynamics of using and sharing drugs, including the  use of psychoactive substances among migrant groups.  

How did COVID-19 and the lockdowns impact the way vulnerable groups access COVID-19 health  information via their social networks?  

List of keywords 
Substance use disorder; harm reduction; migrant, elderly, youth, and women’s health, health & social  networks, domestic violence 

List of sub-disciplines or cross-disciplinary areas of concern 
Sociology, Anthropology, Public Health

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