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J R Soc Interface. 2010 Nov 6;7(52):1559-69. doi: 10.1098/rsif.2010.0072. Epub 2010 Apr 28.

Health in financial crises: economic recession and tuberculosis in Central and Eastern Europe.

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Department of Zoology, Institute for Emerging Infections, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.


The ongoing global financial crisis, which began in 2007, has drawn attention to the effect of declining economic conditions on public health. A quantitative analysis of previous events can offer insights into the potential health effects of economic decline. In the early 1990s, widespread recession across Central and Eastern Europe accompanied the collapse of the Soviet Union. At the same time, despite previously falling tuberculosis (TB) incidence in most countries, there was an upsurge of TB cases and deaths throughout the region. Here, we study the quantitative relationship between the lost economic productivity and excess TB cases and mortality. We use the data of the World Health Organization for TB notifications and deaths from 1980 to 2006, and World Bank data for gross domestic product. Comparing 15 countries for which sufficient data exist, we find strong linear associations between the lost economic productivity over the period of recession for each country and excess numbers of TB cases (r(2) = 0.94, p < 0.001) and deaths (r(2) = 0.94, p < 0.001) over the same period. If TB epidemiology and control are linked to economies in 2009 as they were in 1991 then the Baltic states, particularly Latvia, are now vulnerable to another upturn in TB cases and deaths. These projections are in accordance with emerging data on drug consumption, which indicate that these countries have undergone the greatest reductions since the beginning of 2008. We recommend close surveillance and monitoring during the current recession, especially in the Baltic states.

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