Health Equity Impact Assessment of Virtual Health Care Services at SFU

2021, Innovations in Research

Our team of students has been collaborating with SFU’s Health Promotion Team to help design a survey as part of a Health Equity Impact Assessment (HEIA) of SFU Health and Counselling Services (HCS)’ current offerings of virtual programs. The survey aims to identify intended and unintended positive and negative impacts of virtual programs and determine whether they adequately serve the needs of priority populations. Responses will help identify gaps and impacts of services for different populations to create equity-based recommendations. We hope to improve upon HCS’ virtual programs, while acknowledging the social conditions and structures that may hinder access for students. We also hope to explore ways of transitioning previous programs to remote means, while also exploring potential new program offerings and ways to increase the accessibility and inclusiveness of programs.

Through our session, we will discuss the importance of community-based participatory research. On our project we have been collaborating so far with Out On Campus and the SFU Disability and Neurodiversity Alliance. We approached these student groups to provide a platform to voice their concerns and play a direct role in the planning of the HEIA. Through these collaborations, we hope to dismantle barriers and amplify the voices of students who may be disproportionately disadvantaged by them. These groups will assist us in the designing of the survey and drafting the final report and recommendations.

As we adjust to remote means of delivery of services, it’s important to also account for the different ways that it may impact the delivery of services. In our session, we will also provide preliminary findings for our study and what students propose are the best way to adapt programs to this new normal. We will also highlight the strengths of certain virtual programs and recommendations students have for future services and program offerings.

Our research project has just completed data collection and we are now in the process of analyzing our data. We hope to share our preliminary results and research protocol at the showcase event. Our internal report’s target release date is currently in May.

Through the results of our project we hope to create an internal report for HCS that will also be passed on to upper leadership at SFU. We are also hoping to release an external report that other universities and organizations can reference to learn more about how to conduct a HEIA through a digital equity framework. Our survey also followed Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) indicators when creating our questions. In this report, we will also provide a research protocol that can be used as a reference for conducting community-based participatory research on university campuses.

As our Health Equity Impact Assessment is focused on virtual services, we wanted to include a digital health equity lens. Although virtual platforms have been optimal for keeping people safe during the pandemic, they may impact the equity of services. Different populations will be affected differently by this switch to virtual services, and health inequities may be amplified due to access to technology. There have also been concerns about the quality of care and whether it has decreased due to the transition to virtual delivery methods. We have tried to add elements to our project that seek to explore digital equity and see how services can be improved and rectify this gap.

Through the implementation of an online survey and the collaboration with essential campus stakeholders, we will be able to gather a diverse sample of students while amplifying the voices of priority populations. This in turn will ensure that we adequately allocate resources needed to provide students with equal outcomes.

Student Health Advisory Committee members during a virtual meeting.

Sarah Chae
Aleisha Fernandes
Elisabeth Avery
Serena Bains
Misha'a Khan
Shabnam Raufi

Student Health Advisory Committee

Health equity, virtual care, university, community-based participatory research


Student Health Advisory Committee

Simon Fraser University's Student Health Advisory Committee (SHAC) contributes to the Healthy Campus Community initiative under the supervision of the SFU Health Promotion Team. This initiative takes a systemic, campus-wide approach to create conditions that positively enhance students' health and well-being. The current committee members include: Sarah Chae (co-lead), Aleisha Fernandes (co-lead), Elisabeth Avery, Serena Bains, Misha’a Khan and Shabnam Raufi.

Learn more:

SFU Health and Counselling Services on Instagram @sfuhcs

More Innovations in Research