COVID-19 Risks in British Columbia's Neighbourhoods

2021, Innovations in Research

The risk of contracting coronavirus varies between people and places, which makes some British Columbians more likely to develop COVID-19 than others. There are a number of reasons for this, many of which are related to socio-economic factors, occupational hazards, and our personal behaviours. These personal risk factors can become amplified when we spend time in places that may also result in an increased risk of transmission.

This project has involved creating and running a vulnerability model to identify differences in COVID-19 risks across BC's neighbourhoods. The vulnerability model is visualized in a series of map outputs on a public-facing dashboard. By scrolling through these maps, you can see how our research team based at Simon Fraser University has been exploring these issues. These maps add important new insights into the ongoing dialogue about how to manage the COVID-19 pandemic in British Columbia and where policy and public health efforts should be focused.

Our project is relevant to equity in two main ways. First, we set out to provide the most granular details shared to date about how we can understand vulnerability to COVID-19 risks across BC. The vulnerability model we have built to do this contains variables that we know are contributing to inequities in infection rates both here in BC and globally. Equity is thus at the core of our project. Our maps can be used to inform equity-based approaches to vaccine roll-out, for example, as well highlighting the need to tailor public health messaging differently between places.

Second, our project has used an open science philosophy throughout. We have incorporated open data sources into our maps, and we have shared our map outputs publicly (even prior to scholarly dissemination). There is such a significant public desire for locally meaningful information related to COVID-19 that we felt it was only appropriate to employ this approach.

Valorie Crooks

Professor, Department of Geography

COVID-19 risks, vulnerability model, public health, GIS, mapping, neighbourhoods

Excerpts from media coverage

“Researchers at Simon Fraser University have unveiled a series of maps painting one of the most detailed pictures yet of how different neighbourhoods across British Columbia are vulnerable to COVID-19.”
Tri-City News

“Much of the data in the maps have already been reported or made public. But even for the most die-hard news junkies, their novelty lies in bringing everything we know about population risk and COVID-19 together into one place.”
Tri-City News

“One of the most important messages of the map project is that the most important decision-makers in the pandemic are individuals.”
Vancouver Is Awesome

“The maps are designed to assist policymakers in identifying areas most in need of additional support to prevent and manage outbreaks."
Prince George Matters

“As the vaccine roll-out gathers momentum, data like this could help prioritize where to give shots and possibly most important, serve as a guide for people’s behaviour in their own community." 
Global News

“Valorie Crooks is an SFU Geography Professor, whose expertise is creating spatial models of data—understanding what types of things are going on in a given place based on the information that’s available. It’s not a new technique, but the pandemic brought an opportunity to do something different with it.”
Global News

“Crooks noted that at this point in the pandemic, people are a bit numb to all the information they are receiving, and it is often from a very bird's eye view of the issue, not a community view. ‘And so, our work helps bring granularity to the discussion that hasn't happened so far. Where you can actually see, it is not an even playing field across the province, within health authorities or within municipalities’."
Vancouver Is Awesome

“One of the key uses for this data is to compare it with COVID-19 case numbers in communities. If the team finds that very high-risk places are seeing low transmission and infection rates, 'one of the things [worth] pointing out is that the public health interventions are actually working well,' said Crooks.”
The Peak

About the project

Presentation at Innovations in Research on April 13, 2021


Valorie Crooks

Dr. Valorie Crooks (she/her/hers) is a professor in the Department of Geography at Simon Fraser University. She holds the Canada Research Chair in Health Service Geographies and is SFU's Strategic Lead for Knowledge Mobilization. The project team also includes Dr. Nadine Schuurman (professor), Dr. Melissa Giesbrecht (research coordinator), Leah Rosenkrantz (PhD candidate), Jessica Tate (MA student), Kristie Nicol (patient partner) and Paul Burgener (patient partner).

Learn more:

More Innovations in Research