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From risk to resilience: An equity approach to COVID-19

This resource is available in English and French.

Released in October 2020, this annual report of the Chief Public Health Officer (CPHO) of Canada reviews how the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated inequities across the country. This year’s edition builds on the CPHO’s 2019 report, titled Addressing stigma towards a more inclusive health system.

Report goals

The 2020 report has multiple goals, one of which being to stimulate dialogue about issues that are critical to the health of people in Canada as we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The resource also aims to highlight opportunities for collaborative action to strengthen Canada’s response to this and future public health emergencies. CPHO Theresa Tam is clear in her bottom line that “no one is protected until everyone is protected” [1, p. 2].

The report contains three main sections:

  1. Section 1 describes the SARS-CoV-2 virus and its impacts from January 2020 to August 2020.
  2. Section 2 reviews existing health and social inequities in Canada and how they have been exacerbated by the virus and the public health measures put in place in response to the pandemic.
  3. The final section suggests we are in a watershed moment and proposes using a health equity approach as a way forward.

Anti-stigma framework and actions for change

The report includes a framework for a health equity approach to COVID-19 founded on reducing stigma and discrimination. As explained by Dr. Tam, an equity approach will support us to rebuild from the pandemic and will improve health for all living in Canada.

The framework points to actions in crisis response; influencing values and attitudes; high-impact policy action; and strengthening infrastructure in data, governance and communication.

In addition, Dr. Tam proposes three catalyzing actions to provide a foundation for promoting resilience during and after the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Leadership and governance for structural change
  • Harnessing social cohesion
  • Strengthening the public health capacity across Canada

Use this resource to:

  • facilitate discussion about health and social inequities being amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the public health response; 
  • identify ways in which the social and structural determinants of health and health inequities intersect in an outbreak or pandemic
  • examine how the determinants above lead to worse outcomes for groups and populations who experience inequities; and
  • consider how you and your organization can take action using a health equity approach focusing on the report’s catalyzing actions noted above.

Work cited

  1. Public Health Agency of Canada. (2020). From risk to resilience: An equity approach to COVID-19. Government of Canada. Ottawa, ON.


Public Health Agency of Canada. (2020). From risk to resilience: An equity approach to COVID-19. Government of Canada. Ottawa, ON.

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Tags: Community engagement, COVID-19, Pandemic, Stigma, discrimination, Assess and report, Modify and orient interventions, Public Health Agency of Canada, Report / Document