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'Back to better’: Amplifying health equity, and determinants of health perspectives during the COVID-19 pandemic

Cette ressource est également disponible en français.

This journal article describes a series of five one-hour online conversations held by the NCCDH with the public health community and others in April 2020. The conversations were designed to identify, generate and share equity-focused impacts and responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, and aimed to answer the following questions:

  • As the COVID-19 pandemic took told across the globe, how was the intersecting relationship between social determinants of health embodied in public health and policy responses?
  • What were the emerging impacts of COVID-19 on social and health inequities?

The conversation series engaged 13 practice, policy, research and community leaders including: Indigenous elders and knowledge keeps, policy and decision makers, practitioners, and researchers from health and non-profit sectors and over 1600 participants registered. Conversation themes included:

  • Health equity, determinants of health, and COVID-19
  • Community impact and responses to COVID-19 (focus on gender, racism, homelessness)
  • Indigenous perspectives on COVID-19
  • Community impacts and responses (focus on household food insecurity, disability and ethics)
  • Equitable futures in a post-COVID-19 world

Thematic analysis findings

Analysis of the conversations revealed four broad themes:

  • Oppressive, unjust systems and existing health and social inequities (COVID-19 as a flashlight, a hammer and a crystal ball)
  • Health and social systems under duress and non-responsive to equity
  • Disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 driven by underlying structural and socioeconomic inequity (e.g. impacts for Indigenous peoples, Black and racialized communities, gender, precariously employed, food insecure, housing insecure, people with disabilities, mental health)
  • Enhanced momentum for collective mobilization, policy innovations and social transformation (community mobilization and organizing, policy innovations on the social determinants of health, igniting social transformations for health and social equity, power reasserts itself)

The analysis demonstrated an interest in going ‘back to better’ rather than ‘back to normal’ post-COVID-19. Better was articulated as a more equitable society guided by ethics of community care, focused on structural change.

Use this resource to

  • understand the impacts of COVID-19 on communities experiencing health and social inequities;
  • explore the intersections between structural and social determinants of health and COVID-19;
  • mobilize your organization to use equity as a guiding principle in COVID-19 and pandemic responses; and
  • develop long-term strategies for post-COVID recovery.

Related resources

COVID-19 Resource Hub

Other Resources in our Equity Informed Responses to COVID-19


Ndumbe-Eyoh, S., Muzumdar, P., Betker, C., & Oickle, D. (2021). "'Back to better': Amplifying health equity, and determinants of health perspectives during the COVID-19 pandemic." Global health promotion, 17579759211000975. Advance online publication.

Tags: COVID-19, Document, Journal Article