Suessmilch Lecture

COVID-19 in Brazil: Spatial Patterns and Demographic Effects

Marcia C. Castro
Online Presentation, September 30, 2021

As part of the Suessmilch Lecture series, Marcia C. Castro from Harvard University, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston gave a talk on COVID-19 in Brazil.


“COVID-19 in Brazil: Spatial Patterns and Demographic Effects”


Brazil has been severely hit by COVID-19, with rapid spatial spread of both cases and deaths. Indicators of clustering, trajectories, speed, and intensity of the movement of COVID-19 to interior areas, combined with indices of policy measures show that while no single narrative explains the diversity in the spread, an overall failure of implementing prompt, coordinated, and equitable responses in a context of stark local inequalities fueled disease spread. This resulted in high and unequal infection and mortality burdens, with large reductions in life expectancy. We estimate a decline in 2020 life expectancy at birth (e0) of 1.3 years, a mortality level not seen since 2014. The loss was not uniform among states; Amazonas lost 60.4% of the improvements in e0 since 2000. In the first four months of 2021, COVID-19 deaths represented 107% of the total 2020 figures. Assuming that death rates would have been equal to 2019 all-cause rates in the absence of COVID-19, COVID-19 deaths in 2021 have already reduced e0 in 2021 by 1.8 years, which is slightly larger than the reduction estimated for 2020 under similar assumptions.

About the Speaker

Marcia C. Castro © Adam Mastoon

Marcia Castro is Andelot Professor of Demography, chair of the Department of Global Health and Population at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, and director of the Brazil Studies Program of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies (DRCLAS). Her research focuses on the development and use of multidisciplinary approaches to identify the determinants of infectious disease transmission (particularly mosquito-borne) in different ecological settings to inform control policies. Castro has projects on malaria, COVID-19, arboviruses, infant/child mortality and development, health policy, and climate change in the Brazilian Amazon. She earned a PhD in Demography from Princeton University.

The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.