Health and Equity During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Find out what policy experts have to say about the fight to flatten the curve.

Global public health systems are facing a monumental crisis. How effective have government responses been in flattening the curve? What lessons can be learned from past crises? And what equity factors must be considered in developing solutions to this pandemic?

The Max Bell School's Policy Challenges during a Pandemic series tackled these questions with a number of webinars and briefings. Here's a recap of the ones that examined the health and equity issues posed by this crisis:

Pathogens, Pandemics and Public Liberty / Public Liberties and Emergency Powers

As governments grapple with the threat of a global pandemic, Canadians have seen numerous liberties — many of which they used to take for granted — be whisked away in the name of public health. In her webinar and briefing, Pearl Eliadis addresses key questions about the legal authority of democratic states during a pandemic. Where is the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in all this? What are the impacts on vulnerable groups? And are we experiencing irreversible surveillance creep and force drift, as law enforcement exercises ever-growing powers over us?

High Compliance Policies and their Pitfalls / Harm Reduction in Pandemic Times

According to Daniel Weinstock, Director of the McGill Institute for Health and Social Policy, maximalist restrictions that promote confinement in the name of public health will ultimately prove unsustainable, making them an imperfect way to address COVID-19. Instead, Daniel Weinstock supports taking measures to stretch time and rethink space, ultimately creating more equitable, sustainable, and effective social distancing guidelines. Watch his webinar and read his briefing to learn more.

Health Disparities Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

On the surface, the COVID-19 pandemic may appear to be non-discriminatory, but the pandemic has disproportionately wreaked havoc on people of colour and other marginalized groups. Dr. Zinzi Bailey’s webinar and Professor Nicholas King’s briefing delve into why these inequities exist and how political innovation can help combat them.

Food Security in the Time of the COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID-19 has sharply shifted the supply and demand for food all around the world. Some of the reasons for these changes are obvious: for example, labour shortages due to COVID-19 infections have created gaps in the food production supply chain. But others are less immediately evident. Travel restrictions have made it impossible for migrant workers — upon whom many large-scale farms rely heavily for harvesting crops — to enter the United States to do their jobs. This reduces farms’ output volumes, shifting the supply of fruits and vegetables available to consumers. In this webinar and briefing, Professor Aurélie Harou explores the many factors contributing to the short-term and expected long-term shifts in the supply of and demand for food, in Canada, the United States, and across the globe.

Monitoring Health Systems Responses

It is a remarkably complex challenge for experts to monitor and compare the efforts of public health systems working to combat COVID-19. In this webinar, Dr. Amélie Quesnel-Vallée joined us to unpack the four levels of the conceptual framework for assessing health system responses.

How Different Countries Respond to Global Crises: Social Policy Lessons from the Past

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced nations around the world to confront enormous social policy challenges. Countries have implemented sweeping changes, seeking simultaneously to limit the spread of the disease and mitigate the economic damage. For the most part, new policies and programs that have been introduced are supposed to be temporary. Professor Daniel Béland took a look at past crises and assessed the durability of the social policies implemented by governments in those contexts. Watch his webinar and read his briefing to learn what past crises can tell us about which COVID-19 policies might persist beyond the end of this pandemic.

The Max Bell School’s Policy Challenges during a Pandemic series tapped into the expertise of the Max Bell School community and beyond to tackle the complexity of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts.

In addition to health and equity challenges, policy experts have weighed in on issues of communications and misinformation; institutions and governments; and economic recovery.

Click here to take a look at other articles and briefings in this series. 

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