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

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Three new COVID-19 deaths in Central zone, Alberta under 10,000 active cases

The Central zone sits at 849 active cases, with 52 people in hospital and 10 in the ICU.

Black Press File Photo
Maskwacis RCMP lay charges for attempted murder, kidnapping, and flight from police

Female victim remains in hospital in serious condition.

(File photo)
After several years in limbo, Parkland Manor to be torn down

Rimoka Housing Foundation has received funding and approval for the demolition

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced 16 additional deaths Thursday. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
No easing of Alberta’s COVID-19 measures Thursday, 678 new COVID-19 cases

The province also hit 1,500 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic

Lucas Berg, left, with the backpacks filled with essential items he donated to the Red Deer Mustard Seed Jan. 19, 2021. (Photo submitted)
Ponoka youth fills backpacks for less fortunate

Lucas Berg, 14, of Ponoka County, donated 20 backpacks he filled with necessities

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, updates media on the COVID-19 situation in Edmonton, Friday, March 20, 2020. Hinshaw says residents in long-term care and supportive living facilities will remain the priority as the province grapples with a looming slowdown in COVID-19 vaccine supply. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta long-term care residents remain priority in looming slowdown of COVID vaccine

There are 119 patients in intensive care and 1,463 people have died

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
‘Gut punch’: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney blasts Biden on revoked Keystone XL permit

Kenney said he was upset the U.S. wouldn’t consult with Canada first before acting

Joe Biden, then the U.S. vice-president, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take their seats at the start of the First Ministers and National Indigenous Leaders meeting in Ottawa, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau, Biden to talk today as death of Keystone XL reverberates in Canada

President Joe Biden opposed the Keystone XL expansion as vice-president under Barack Obama

Prince Edward Island’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. A lozenge plant in Prince Edward Island has laid off 30 workers, citing an “almost non-existent” cold and cough season amid COVID-19 restrictions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Almost non-existent’ cold and cough season: P.E.I. lozenge plant lays off 30 workers

The apparent drop in winter colds across the country seems to have weakened demand for medicine and natural remedies

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Calgary flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

(Photo submitted)
Community Futures brings back Social Media Challenge for 2021

This time the challenge is for non-profits and community groups

A conveyor belt transports coal at the Westmoreland Coal Co.’s Sheerness mine near Hanna, Alta., on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. Coal mining impacts are already occurring in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains even as debate intensifies over the industry’s presence in one of the province’s most beloved landscapes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
As Alberta debates coal mining, industry already affecting once-protected Rockies

UCP revoked a policy that had protected eastern slopes of the Rockies from open-pit coal mining since 1976

Most Read