Professor Nicholas Spence’s research team recently published ‘The COVID-19 Pandemic: Informing Policy Decision-Making for a Vulnerable Population’ in the International Indigenous Policy Journal (IIPJ). This article examines the Canadian Covid-19 response during wave one and hopes to guide policy decision-making as it affects our most vulnerable populations. The article states that rates of infection and death coincide with patterns of social inequality mostly based on race and socioeconomic background. Indigenous Peoples and other racialized minorities have limited capacity for physical distancing due to factors such as inadequate housing, high-risk employment, and reduced access to health-promoting resources. These factors have led to disproportionate risk that needs to be recognized and addressed if the Canadian policy makers are to truly fight against the virus effectively.
The article sets out to adequately assess the unique vulnerability of Indigenous Peoples in Canada by using a social diagnostic tool called the Community Well-Being (CWB) Index. By using this tool in all levels of pandemic policy decisions, policy makers can better maximize impact and mitigate harm in their response. The lessons needed to be learned from the Covid-19 pandemic is that proactive measures will need to be made to eliminate socially unjust conditions to better address future social, health, economic and environmental challenges.
Professor Spence is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto, with teaching responsibilities on the UT Scarborough (UTSC) Campus. His research focuses on social inequality, health, and well-being. Professor Spence’s research spans multiple levels of analysis, using a number of research methods, examining a wide range of health and well-being issues, such as obesity, chronic disease, gene-environment interactions, safe water, infectious disease, pandemics, mental health, addictions, economic development, education, and labor markets. He has published various books and scholarly articles in journals such as the American Journal of Epidemiology, Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Cancer, Obesity Research and Clinical Practice, Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, amongst many others.
Professor Spence is affiliated with the Harvard University & Massachusetts General Hospital Center on Genomics, Vulnerable Populations and Health Disparities. Also, he serves as the Associate Director of the Aboriginal Policy Research Consortium and Senior Editor of the International Indigenous Policy Journal.
We have included the research publication abstract below. You can find the publication on the International Indigenous Policy Journal’s website here.
The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted society. Vulnerable populations are at heightened risk for exposure, as well as adverse health and social consequences. Policymakers are operating under difficult circumstances, making crucial policy decisions to maximize impact and mitigate harm, with limited scientific evidence. This article examines the pronounced vulnerability of Indigenous Peoples in Canada to the pandemic. We highlight the importance of moving beyond individual-level risk factors associated with COVID-19 by identifying and classifying Indigenous communities most vulnerable to the pandemic. We propose the use of a social diagnostic tool, the Community Well-Being Index, rooted in the social determinants of health, to predict community vulnerability and potentially guide policy decision-making in the fight against COVID-19.