Medical report examines health inequalities such as income, social security and racial status that may alter impact of COVID-19

New report published in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association (CMAJ) says the health inequalities that were exposed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic can be corrected through interventions and policy changes in Canada .

Inequalities – the avoidable differences in health between different population groups – can be alleviated by taking action against some of the common causes, according to the report.

“Racialized people, women, people on low incomes, people who are homeless, people who use substances and those in prison have been disproportionately affected during the pandemic,” the report says.

The report says the pandemic has shown the interdependence of all Canadians as the spread of the virus among the underprivileged threatened the health of everyone, including the privileged.

The report also warned that the current focus on inequalities, which have long been part of Canada’s health care system, may fade once the threat of COVID-19 subsides. This shows the need to act.

“Coordinated responses to the pandemic include efforts to bring life back to ‘normal’ after the immediate threat, but the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the need to address inequalities rather than resume the unjust status quo,” said declared the report.

The article quoted University of Toronto researcher Dr. Audrey Laporte, director of the Canadian Center for Health Economics. His work was part of a larger study – a top brainstorm exchange – held in July 2020.

Laporte summarized that between February and April 2020, three million Canadians suddenly found themselves without a job. In May, the unemployment rate was 13.7%, up from 5.6% in February 2020.

On top of that, 1.4 million people have given up looking for work altogether, bringing the adjusted unemployment rate to around 20 percent, according to the report.

“Half of the job losses were in the bottom income quartile. A long-term reduction in income has its own health consequences, which will span years to come, as deaths from COVID-19 are occurring now. Socio-economic inequalities are linked to inequalities in health, and evidence shows that these recessions exacerbate these inequalities. ”

Laporte’s work referred to recent evidence from the UK of the 2008 financial crisis which suggested that for every 1% increase in unemployment, there was a 2% increase in the prevalence of chronic disease and problems with mental health increased even more. Long-term health effects continue long after the recession itself ends, with empirical evidence showing that it can take up to 10 years for an individual’s income to return to its normal level. would have been. This has a particular impact on young people, women, non-union workers, service workers and low-income people.

The CMAJ report, written by 10 researchers and physicians, made 13 recommendations for policy changes at the federal, provincial and municipal levels that will challenge the status quo and work to promote health equity.

The recommendations include measures such as universal basic income, universal employment insurance, parental leave and paid sick leave. It also recommends legal interventions and support for victims of domestic violence. There is also a call for expanded housing support programs, as well as legal support and financial advice to prevent evictions. The change is also recommended in terms of action against racism against Aboriginals and Blacks.

The report also said that implementing proven interventions and changes can promote health equity and protect overall health during the pandemic recovery and before the next pandemic. The effects of these interventions and changes on health equity should be closely monitored to inform future changes in Canada and elsewhere, according to the report.

Len Gillis is a reporter for the Local Journalism Initiative at It reports on health care in Northern Ontario.