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

A case of COVID has been detected within School District 33. (School District 33 photo)
UPDATE: Case of COVID confirmed at a Chilliwack school

Fraser Health has not informed parents but district sent letter to parents Friday

Record-low returns of salmon have been recorded on the Fraser River in recent years. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
Time for Indigenous-led salmon strategy on the Lower Fraser, says Alliance

‘Closures of First Nations, commercial and recreational salmon fishing’ have huge impact: LFFA

The number of new COVID-19 cases has risen sharply in Vancouver and the Fraser North region over the last week.
Chart: Tyler Olsen
CHARTS: Weekly COVID-19 case counts continue to rise in Fraser Valley

The number of new COVID-19 cases has risen sharply in Vancouver and the Fraser North region.

The City of Chilliwack says there’s too much spitting going on at the Sardis Sports Complex. (City of Chilliwack photo)
Too much spitting a problem at Chilliwack’s Sardis Sports Complex

The City of Chilliwack is asking the minor hockey community to ease up on expectorating

The Excelsior 4 are set to make their second court appearance in Abbotsford on Monday (Nov. 2). (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
‘Excelsior 4’ making second Abbotsford court appearance on Monday

Animal rights activists expected to plead not guilty to charges, protest for Vancouver scheduled

Physical distancing signs are a common sight in B.C. stores and businesses. THE CANADIAN PRESS
272 more COVID-19 cases for B.C., outbreak at oil sands project

Three new health care outbreaks, three declared over

A Mercedes SUV is covered at a gas station in the Clayton area following a deadly shooting there on Sept. 28, 2019. (File photo)
This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

Health care employees take extensive precautions when working with people infected or suspected of having COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
WorkSafeBC disallows majority of COVID-19 job injury claims

Health care, social services employees filing the most claims

Vancouver Symphony Orchestra Maestro Otto Tausk. (Photo: vancouversymphony.ca)
50/50 lotto players buck up for Metro Vancouver musicians hit hard by COVID

‘Rapidly growing jackpot’ for VSO’s 50/50 draw as they go online with TheConcertHall.ca

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday October 28, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Conversion therapy ban gets approval in principle, exposes Conservative divisions

Erin O’Toole himself voted in favour of the bill, as did most Conservative MPs

Most Read