Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Howard Njoo responds to a question during a news conference in Ottawa, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Howard Njoo responds to a question during a news conference in Ottawa, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Better data needed to address inequalities exposed by COVID-19: Njoo

Having detailed data will help delineate, then address the problem of inequality in health care, said Njoo

Canada’s deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo says collecting better data can help in addressing inequalities the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed.

Speaking at a virtual public health conference Wednesday, Njoo said collecting data on race and ethnicity for health purposes has been neglected for a very long time but everyone recognizes its importance now.

Having this detailed data will help delineate and then address the problem of inequality in health care, said Njoo.

“That’s an important, I think, first step,” he said. “We’re obviously working diligently to make that happen.”

Njoo’s superior Dr. Theresa Tam said having more granular data now, during the second wave of COVID-19, makes it possible to adopt more targeted approaches to resisting the illness in different areas of the country.

Tam said overcoming the pandemic depends on increasing resilience in the population and building health equality into the immediate response and longer-term recovery plans.

“You cannot have public health measures and ask people to isolate … without social support for (their) income or for child care,” Tam said.

She said the pandemic exposed existing inequities in society. Workers in essential services and long-term-care facilities are often racialized women in low-paying jobs, for instance, who are risk at work and have few options even if they’re sick.

Indigenous, Black and other racialized people, homeless people, incarcerated people and those living in crowded conditions are among many groups that have been disadvantaged, Tam said.

Canadian Public Health Association chair Richard Musto — a former top public health doctor in Calgary — said all health and social services organizations should use demographic data to understand fully who is affected disproportionately by the pandemic.

Musto said Canada remains a nation where public policies and institutions create harm for individuals and communities based on race, religion, culture, or ethnic origin.

“These public policies and institutional practices result in inequities in social inclusion, economic outcomes, personal health and access to and quality of health and social services,” he said. “These effects are especially evident for racialized, Black and Indigenous Peoples.”

These practices also can harm those at the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum, women and gender-diverse people, people with disabilities, and other equity-seeking communities, he said.

The pandemic has highlighted the awareness of these injustices and how the social determinants have devastating impact on the health and well-being of the underserved communities, he said.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information has been working to develop a standardized approach to including race-based data in health care, Musto said.

Meanwhile, as the second wave of COVID-19 washes over the country, Tam said the fatigue that regular people and public health workers alike feel is presenting new challenges.

She said limiting physical contact to those living in the same household is still a very critical measure to avoid huge outbreaks and maintain manageable level of COVID-19 cases.

“We have to do all that we can to keep that slow burn.”

Tam said there’s a need for a fine balance between maintaining low virus transmission and at the same time minimizing the social and economic impacts of the pandemic and the measures authorities use to fight it.

“There is no written playbook on this,” she said. “You’re trying to trade and balance it out.”

Tam said it’s going to take a number of months after having a safe and effective vaccine for everyone who wants it to be vaccinated.

“We have to find that path forwards,” she said.

ASLO READ: Some Canadians won’t get the flu shot because they haven’t gotten COVID-19: poll

———

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

Chris Paulson of Burns Lake took a quick selfie with a lynx over the weekend of Feb. 20-22, 2021, after the wild cat was found eating some of his chickens. (Chris Paulson/Facebook)
VIDEO: Burns Lake man grabs lynx by scruff after chickens attacked

‘Let’s see the damage you did, buddy,’ Chris Paulson says to the wild cat

Northern Health has declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Brucejack mine, 65 km north of Stewart on Feb. 11, 2021. (Pretivm Photo)
Northern Health has declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Brucejack Mine, 65 kilometres north of Stewart on Feb. 11, 2021. (Pretivm Photo)
Northern Health reports 20 more COVID-19 cases in outbreak at Brucejack Mine

So far, 42 people have tested positive, nine cases are active and self-isolating onsite

Fisheries and Oceans Canada released it's 2021 Pacific Herring Integrated Fisheries Management Plan Feb. 19. (File photo)
Northern herring opportunities kept to a minimum

2021 management plan caps Prince Rupert fishery at 5 per cent

A collaborative genomic research project is underway to map the movements of 118 Northwest sockeye populations to better inform management decisions on at-risk stocks. (File photo)
Genomic study tracks 118 Northwest B.C. sockeye populations

Development of new tool will be used to help harvesters target healthy groups

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

A 50-year-old man was stabbed in an altercation that started with a disagreement about physical distancing. (File photo)
Argument about physical distancing escalates to stabbing in Nanaimo

Victim, struck with coffee cup and then stabbed, suffers minor injuries; suspect arrested

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP will not trigger election as long as pandemic continues: Singh

‘“We will vote to keep the government going’

“Support your city” reads a piece of graffiti outside the Ministry of Finance office. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Slew of anti-bylaw graffiti ‘unacceptable’ says Victoria mayor, police

Downtown businesses, bylaw office and Ministry of Finance vandalized Wednesday morning

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The late Michael Gregory, 57, is accused of sexually exploiting six junior high students between 1999 and 2005. (Pixabay)
Former Alberta teacher accused of sexually assaulting students found dead in B.C.

Mounties say Michael Gregory’s death has been deemed ‘non-suspicious’

According to a new poll, a majority of Canadians want to see illicit drugs decriminalized. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Majority of Canadians think it’s high time to decriminalize illicit drugs: poll

More than two-times the B.C. residents know someone who died from an overdose compared to rest of Canada

Most Read