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

West Coast General Hospital in Port Alberni received some good news about an expansion to its emergency department on Jan. 15, 2021. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
B.C. health ministry commits $6.25M to hospital expansion in Port Alberni

Plans for larger emergency department have been on hold since 2015

The site of the former Arrowview Hotel, on Second Avenue and Athol Street, as of Jan. 14, 2020. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Port Alberni pressures Arrowview Hotel owner for final cleanup

Demolition finished in June 2020 but site still full of construction material

A Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation guardian took this photo of dozens of vehicles parked along a forest service road in the Kennedy watershed. (Submitted photo)
Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District looks at enforcement of illegal camping

ACRD currently does not have an existing bylaw service to tackle the issue

Randy Brown, owner of Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue, has five trailers and a motorhome at the back of his property that he is renting to people who had been previously homeless. He wants to put 15 trailers on his property, hooked up to city sewer and water and BC Hydro. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Building owner digs in heels, refuses to remove illegal trailers from property

Port Alberni council gives owner two-week reprieve on remediation orders

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with longtime actor/broadcaster and B.C. resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A still from surveillance footage showing a confrontation in the entranceway at Dolly’s Gym on Nicol Street on Friday morning. (Image submitted)
Troublemaker in Nanaimo fails at fraud attempt, slams door on business owner’s foot

VIDEO: Suspect causes pain and damage in incident downtown Friday morning

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Dr. Shannon Waters, the medical health officer for the Cowichan Valley Region, is reminding people to stay the course with COVID-19 measures. (File photo)
‘Stay the course’ with COVID measures, Island Health reminds

Limit social activity, wash hands, wear a mask, and isolate if you feel sick

Most Read