The effects of COVID-19 on global economies


MSUCOM faculty Furqan Irfan, Ph.D., MBBS, recently published in the Journal of Global Health

Furqan Irfan, Ph.D., MBBS, assistant professor and director of research development at Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine (MSUCOM), has been published as first author of a recent study about the impact the pandemic had on the economy in South Asia in the Journal of Global Health (JoGH).  

The publication, “Coronavirus pandemic in the South Asia region: Health policy and economy trade-off,” is part of an ongoing multidisciplinary research project exploring the impact of public health measures during the COVID-19 pandemic on economies around the world. Dr. Irfan’s research covers a quarter of the world’s population in the South Asia region — Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It examines the potential for economic hardship in these highly populated areas due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, such as masking, social distancing and border closures.

“I have always had the goal of tackling global health’s biggest challenges,” Dr. Irfan said. “These publications are part of this landmark project on health policy and economy trade-off during the pandemic and provides the scientific evidence-base for governments and world leaders to act during times of global crises and pandemics.”    

The article involved collaboration with colleagues from the University of Michigan’s Center for Global Health Equity. Four MSUCOM students — Ben Telford, Nick Hollon, Ali Dehghani and Casey Schukow — were co-authors on the piece.

Research findings

The study concluded that in developing countries, there was a trade-off between strict health policy and response measures, and the economies of the South Asian region during the pandemic. Developing low-income and low-middle-income countries with extended periods of strict health policies and national lockdowns – in the absence of social welfare programs – were relatively ineffective in controlling COVID-19 transmission, and adversely affected the local economies. This inflicted mass unemployment and loss of livelihood among these populations.

Comparatively, the same study performed in the Nordic region — Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Norway — also published in JoGH in 2022, showed that there was no trade-off in developed countries.

Implications for future global health responses

Dr. Irfan hopes the research will provide guidance for governments to implement effective health policies around infectious diseases transmission and pandemic preparedness, while still balancing the economic and societal impacts. He adds that it has broad implications for COVID-19 health policy, epidemiology, health system capacity, community response, economy, inflation, food insecurity and unemployment.

“COVID-19 was a global pandemic that has impacted and changed our society,” he said. “It has shown that investment in public health and the One Health framework is a priority, and that health security is interconnected and requires a coordinated global response.”

Global health studies at MSU

MSUCOM is on the forefront of global health as the home to the MSU Institute of Global Health. Students at MSUCOM are helping to produce world-class global health research, placing the university at the center of pandemic preparedness and global health policy research and security.

These results provide an outlook on future public health issues and how to leverage science for informed decision making by governments and the response by communities.

About JoGH

The JoGH is a peer-reviewed general medical journal focusing on issues relevant for global health, according to its website.