SFU project identifies communities at risk for secondary health impacts post pandemic

·3 min read
SFU researcher Valorie Crooks says the map features all the municipalities in Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island that are at a higher risk for issues like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and food insecurity both during and after the pandemic. (Valorie Crooks/Mapping the COVID-19 pandemic's secondary health impacts - image credit)
SFU researcher Valorie Crooks says the map features all the municipalities in Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island that are at a higher risk for issues like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and food insecurity both during and after the pandemic. (Valorie Crooks/Mapping the COVID-19 pandemic's secondary health impacts - image credit)

As more people in the province receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, a team of researchers at Simon Fraser University is already exploring the secondary health impacts certain communities might experience after the pandemic.

Through a series of interactive maps and data collected by Statistics Canada five years ago, the research team determined which municipalities are at a higher risk for issues like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and food insecurity both during and after the pandemic.

"Seeing the pandemic enter a new phase and hearing British Columbians talk about their excitement for the current pandemic measure to be lifted ... we wanted to indicate the fact that there will be longer term health impacts stemming from the pandemic," said Valorie Crooks, an SFU professor and the Canada research chair in health service geographies, on CBC's All Points West.

The project called Mapping the COVID-19 Pandemic's Long-Term Health Impacts shows that life after the pandemic won't be as usual and some communities might be affected more than others. For example, the map identified several communities on Vancouver Island, including Saanich and Salt Spring Island, as high-risk areas for burnout, housing and loneliness.

"It's time to start considering where these impacts are going to be felt the greatest and how to bring in resources to assist with ... people who might experience stress, anxiety, PTSD, or perhaps the intensification of symptoms of chronic illness due to stress," she said.

5 factors in post pandemic health impacts

Crooks said they narrowed down five different factors that contribute to secondary health impacts — job and housing insecurity, occupational burnout, loneliness and isolation and educational disruption.

Each factor can be isolated and the map will highlight in shades of pink how great the impact would be in the community after the pandemic.

The map showing Victoria and Saanich are colored in shades of pink, with darker areas identified as neighborhoods that are at  higher risk for loneliness and isolation.
The map showing Victoria and Saanich are colored in shades of pink, with darker areas identified as neighborhoods that are at higher risk for loneliness and isolation.(Valorie Crooks/Mapping the COVID-19 pandemic's secondary health impacts)

She said the map doesn't tell you the reasons why some communities will experience a greater impact, but it helps identify potential trouble areas now, so that resources and support can be in put in place ahead of time.

"It allows us to understand where we might want to ... really put down in terms of resources ... especially around mental health support as we transition into a different phase of the pandemic," Crooks said.

She said she hopes the map will at least help start a dialogue and provide communities with the information to identify what resources they might need more of in their neighbourhood.

"We need to mobilize this map so that those people who are trying to gather data evidence can support those arguments around justifying deeper resources coming into their communities," Crooks said.

She said she's already working on another project that's focused on what we've learned during the pandemic and how we can apply that if something like this happens again.

LISTEN | Valorie Crooks talks about Mapping the COVID-19 Pandemic's Long-Term Health Impacts on CBC's All Points West

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