Social health inequalities during the COVID-19 crisis: evidence from excess mortality research

Thursday 7 October 2021, 12h-13h CET

About the webinar

The COVID-19 pandemic has been described as syndemic, as susceptibility and impact is affected not only by biological factors, but also by social interactions. Indeed, evidence is emerging that COVID-19 has a socially patterned distribution, with higher COVID-19 mortality in certain population groups, reflecting social, economic and health inequalities. Identifying the most at-risk groups will allow setting up targeted and adapted preventive actions and healthcare strategies. This need is even more urgent in view of the increasing proportion of elderly people and ethnic diversity in Belgium.

To improve our understanding of the social gradient in COVID-19 disease burden in Belgium, we have asked to three researchers involved in the study of social inequalities in COVID-related mortality to share with us their insights and findings.


12h00 Welcome & Introduction
— Prof Dr Brecht Devleesschauwer, Sciensano & Ghent University
12h05 The income gradient in mortality during the COVID-19 crisis: Evidence from Belgium
— Prof Dr Johannes Spinnewijn, London School of Economics
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12h20 Migrant mortality differences during the first COVID-19 wave in Belgium: Can demographic and socioeconomic indicators explain differential mortality?
— Prof Dr Katrien Vanthomme, Ghent University & VUB
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12h35 A world apart – Levels and determinants of excess mortality due to COVID-19 in care homes: The case of Wallonia during the spring 2020 wave
— Dr Olivier Hardy, ULB
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12h50 Closing remarks
— David de Vaal, Combat Poverty, Insecurity and Social Exclusion Service


Johannes Spinnewijn
Johannes Spinnewijn

Prof. Dr. Johannes Spinnewijn is Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics. His research focuses on topics in public economics, including the design of social insurance and tax systems. Important themes in his work are the development and implementation of evidence-based frameworks to evaluate policy and the design of optimal policies when people are subject to behavioural biases. Johannes is co-editor of the Journal of Public Economics and associate editor at the Review of Economic Studies and American Economic Review. He is a research fellow of the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Center for Economic Policy Research. Prior to joining the LSE, he completed his PhD at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Katrien Vanthomme
Katrien Vanthomme

Prof. Dr. Katrien Vanthomme is currently working as a guest professor at the Department of Public Health and Primary Care of the Universiteit Gent and as a postdoctoral researcher at the Sociology Department of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. She has a strong research expertise in the area of social inequalities in health and mortality, with an important focus on cancer as an outcome.

Olivier Hardy
Olivier Hardy

Dr. Olivier Hardy is an evolutionary biologist and plant geneticist at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. He collaborated with epidemiologists and demographers to analyse how COVID-19 affected the mortality in care homes for elderly people.

David De Vaal
David de Vaal

David de Vaal studied social and cultural anthropology and was afterwards professionally active in organisations within the fields of integration of cultural minorities and the fight against poverty. Since 2020, he has been working as a staff member at the interfederal Combat Poverty Service, and has, among other things, collaborated on an overview of the COVID-19-measures to support people in situations of poverty and insecurity and on the impact of the COVID-19-crisis on people in situations of poverty and insecurity.


HELICON is funded by the Belgian Federal Science Policy (BELSPO) through the BRAIN-be 2.0 (2018-2023) programme.

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Information sheet for participants: EN • NL • FR

Project coordinator

Prof. dr. Brecht Devleesschauwer

Sciensano, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Service Health Information