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DLSPH Open: IHPME’s Contribution to the Fight Against COVID-​19

July 8/2021

Dear faculty members, staff and students:

As the third wave of the pandemic recedes in Canada, there is reason for cautious optimism. Cases are declining sharply and 75% of Canadians have received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose.

Many of you are aware of the work done by the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, which evaluates and reports on pandemic-related evidence to inform the province’s response. In addition to the leadership of Dean Steini Brown, who is the Advisory Table’s co-chair, a number of IHPME faculty are contributing their time and expertise to the panel including:

  • Peter Jüni is the Advisory Table’s Scientific Director. He works on clinical trials and observational studies, and does science communication related to COVID-19. He has also advocated for paid sick days for essential workers who have been disproportionately harmed by the pandemic.
  • Upton Allen is part of Toronto’s Black Scientists’ Task Force on Vaccine Equity and is leading a large-scale study on COVID-19 prevalence and risk factors among Black communities in Canada to understand the impact of the pandemic on Black people in Ontario.
  • Beate Sander is modelling the burden of the disease on the health care system. She leads a team whose projections help public health officials and government leaders to understand coming surges and expected numbers of people coming to hospital with COVID-19.
IHPME Director Audrey Laporte

IHPME Director Audrey Laporte

Throughout the pandemic, IHPME faculty have been researching the impact of the COVID-19 health crisis on all segments of society, from young children to older adults living in long-term care facilities and in the community.

Dr. Julia O’Sullivan is studying the effect of school closures on children’s education—particularly that of children from vulnerable groups including Indigenous children and kids with special needs.

An analysis led by Drs. Geoff Anderson and Walter Wodchis and published in the British Medical Journal, highlights the need for policymakers to consider the link between socioeconomic status and health in monitoring and mitigating the impact of the pandemic.

As Canadians continue to receive care virtually, Dr. Emily Seto is conducting a study on a nurse-led model of integrated care combined with remote monitoring to manage people with complex chronic conditions like heart failure, diabetes and mental illness who are at high risk of hospitalization. The aim is to understand how to implement this model of care in different settings across Canada, including rural areas, and provide evidence to support this approach to managing ongoing health conditions.

Dr. Paul Kurdyak, Chair of Addiction and Mental Health Policy at IHPME, is examining the pandemic’s impact on people’s mental health. He and his colleagues are looking at whether the extra stress people are experiencing during the pandemic has translated into increased demand for mental health services.

One group whose mental health has suffered during the pandemic is female health care workers. Dr. Abi Sriharan led research showing that younger and mid-career female health professionals are experiencing greater stress, burnout and depression owing to personal responsibilities and stressful work conditions. Based on these findings, she has advocated for measures like providing health care workers with financial support, access to personal protective equipment and training programs, as well as monitoring work hours and workload to improve resiliency and address the issue of burnout.

In the area of long-term care, Dr. Susan Bronskill led research comparing pandemic preparedness and responses in Ontario and British Columbia during the first wave. She and her colleagues found that even before pandemic hit, there was better coordination in British Columbia between long-term care, public health and hospitals. They also found British Columbia’s long-term care system was better funded, allocated more care hours for residents, had fewer shared rooms and more non-profit facilities.

Taking a more global approach, Drs. Sara Allin and Greg Marchildon, who lead the North American Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, partnered with the WHO to track and document policy interventions by federal, provincial and territorial governments in response to the pandemic. The work allows researchers to compare Canada’s COVID-19 response to that of other countries.

I’m immensely proud of the important work of our faculty on this once-in-a-lifetime health crisis. Their scholarship has and will continue to shape policy locally, nationally and globally.

Audrey Laporte
Director, IHPME