Health and wellness

An unequal post-pandemic recovery: mapping the aftermath

May 17, 2021

Simon Fraser University researchers have created a map outlining how the COVID-19 pandemic’s long-term health impacts will be distributed in communities across British Columbia. According to the map, each community will face its own unique challenges to recover from the current health crisis. 

Mapping the COVID-19 pandemic’s secondary health impacts is co-led by SFU geography professors Valorie Crooks and Nadine Schuurman with support from a COVID-19 Rapid Response Grant awarded by the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research. 

The map draws on data from Statistics Canada and looks at five factors contributing to secondary health impacts including: 

- housing insecurity
- job insecurity
- occupational burnout
- loneliness/isolation 
- educational disruption

The default view, where the map is shaded in green, displays a model combining impact of all five factors in neighbourhoods across the province. 

The five factors included in the model were chosen because of their direct connection to the types of economic, social and policy measures put in place during the pandemic, such as business closures, physical distancing and shifting to online learning. 

The magnitude of these secondary health impacts varies between places based on the nature of who lives there and the kinds of activities they undertake, the researchers say.

“After the last vaccines have been distributed, after the last COVID-19 patient has been discharged from the ICU we will still have a long way to go to address the secondary health impacts of the pandemic - such as depression, stress and anxiety brought on by experiencing loneliness, housing insecurity, and occupational burnout,” says Crooks, who has also mapped COVID-19 vulnerability across B.C. communities.

The map can help to better understand where policy and public health efforts should be focused in the later stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, she notes.

“The pandemic itself, and the measures we’ve put in place to address it, are going to have lasting impacts on British Columbians for years to come,” she says. “Now is the time for us to think about these long-term health impacts and prepare to provide the supports to help people recover.”