Wellcome Open Research: Segmenting communities as public health strategy: a view from the social sciences and humanities – by Agomoni Ganguli-Mitra and colleagues
In an open letter entitled ‘Segmenting communities as public health strategy: a view from the social sciences and humanities‘, Agomoni Ganguli-Mitra and colleagues  highlight how a proposed ‘segmenting and shielding’ approach to easing the UK lockdown may have unintended, harmful public health consequences.
The ‘Segmentation and shielding of the most vulnerable members of the population as elements of an exist strategy from COVID-19 lockdown‘ approach was proposed in the beginning May by a group of University of Edinburgh modellers, epidemiologists, and biomedical scientists. The approach – which recommends ‘healthy’ individuals to return to ‘normality’ while at-risk groups would remain ‘shielded’ – has been submitted to government and has received significant media attention.
Despite seeming to represent a pragmatic way of easing out of the lockdown, Ganguli-Mitra and colleagues argue that the ‘segmenting and shielding’ approach does not adequately account for public health ethics.
‘Questions of segmenting populations along measures of perceived vulnerability have always informed public health practices. However, and more importantly, the very same histories have also shown how arbitrary, contingent and problematic concepts of vulnerability can be. The history of health ethics is rife with examples of vulnerability being used to implement unjustified protectionist and restrictive measures, as well as problematically labelling and stereotyping entire groups, thus further silencing them.’
In their thought provoking piece, the authors discuss conceptions of vulnerability, ableism and chronic conditions, health and social inequalities, and creative and inclusive responses to public health crises. You can read the full letter here.
 Ingrid Young, Lukas Engelmann, Ian Harper, Donna McCormack, Rebecca Marsland, Lotte Buch Segal, Nayha Sethi, Ellen Stewart, Marlee Tichenor.
Full Reference: Ganguli-Mitra, A, Young I, Engelmann L et al. Segmenting communities as public health strategy: a view from the social sciences and humanities [version 1; peer review: awaiting peer review]. Wellcome Open Res 2020, 5:104.
Image by Sarah Kilian on Unsplash.