Impact of H1N1 on socially disadvantaged populations: summary of a systematic review

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Previous reviews found that the H1N1 pandemic was associated with a large proportion of hospitalizations, severe illness, workplace absenteeism, and high costs. However, the burden among socially disadvantaged groups of the population is unclear. This is a summary of a previously published systematic review commissioned by the World Health Organization on the burden of H1N1 pandemic (influenza A/Mexico/2009 (H1N1)) among socially disadvantaged populations.


MEDLINE and EMBASE were searched to identify studies reporting hospitalization, severe illness, and mortality attributable to the 2009 H1N1 pandemic among socially disadvantaged populations, including ethnic minorities and low-income or lower-middle-income economy countries (LIC/LMIC). SAS and Review Manager were used to conduct random effects meta-analysis.


Forty-eight cohort studies and 14 companion reports including 44 777 patients were included after screening 787 citations and 164 full-text articles. Twelve of the included studies provided data on LIC/LMIC, including one study from Guatemala, two from Morocco, one from Pakistan, and eight from India, plus four companion reports. The rest provided data on ethnic minorities living in high-income economy countries (HIC). Significantly more hospitalizations were observed among ethnic minorities versus nonethnic minorities in two North American studies [1313 patients, odds ratio (OR) 2·26 (95% confidence interval: 1·53–3·32)]. Among hospitalized patients in HIC, statistically significant differences in intensive care unit admissions (n = 8 studies, 15 352 patients, OR 0·84 [0·69–1·02]) and deaths (n = 6 studies, 14 757 patients, OR 0·85 [95% CI: 0·73–1·01]) were not observed.


We found significantly more hospitalizations among ethnic minorities versus nonethnic minorities in North America, yet no differences in intensive care unit admissions or deaths among H1N1-infected hospitalized patients were observed in North America and Australia. Our results suggest a similar burden of H1N1 between ethnic minorities and nonethnic minorities living in HIC.

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