“Two years into the pandemic and into the fifth wave, Saskatchewan has experienced among the highest rates of hospitalizations and deaths per capita in Canada, and pushed the health care system beyond capacity,” said principal investigator Dr. Nazeem Muhajarine (PhD).
“Some people refer to the unintended consequences of COVID-19, but all consequences are policy-driven, practice-based, or behaviour-based,” said Muhajarine, professor of community health and epidemiology in USask’s College of Medicine.
The project, funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR), aims to apply a social justice lens to examine the pandemic’s impact on the mental health, substance use (especially opioids), food insecurity, and precarious housing situations and evictions among “equity-seeking groups” such as Indigenous citizens, new immigrants, and minorities.
Understanding how these impacts might have been exacerbated by existing social inequities and inequalities across groups will guide recommendations on how to “build back better” after the pandemic, he said.
“This study is a vibrant example of how USask provides research the world needs,” said Baljit Singh, Vice-President Research. “It is important our scholars help shape how we can best move forward out of the COVID-19 crisis and take the needs of all our citizens into account.”
Dr. Erika Dyck (PhD), professor and Canada Research Chair in the history of health and social justice in the College of Arts and Science, is co-principal applicant for the two-year study, funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research.
“COVID-19 has created an historic event, causing us to change how we live, grieve, cope, and co-operate,” said Dyck. “This project creates capacity for measuring how communities and organizations have pivoted to provide supports and to identify sizeable gaps in our ability to care for one another.”
The team includes two knowledge users, nine other researchers from USask and four from the University of Regina (U of R) including one based in Prince Albert, and nine community-based organizations. Several university researchers belong to the Saskatchewan Population Health and Evaluation Research Unit (SPHERU).