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The Canadian policy response to COVID-19: What’s in it for health equity?

Available in English, with French-language summary (pages 11–16)

This report from Ruckert et al. examines how federal and provincial policies/programs (March 15–October 21, 2020) — designed to support Canadian individuals, businesses, sectors, organizations, provinces/territories in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and stimulating economic recovery post-pandemic — addressed social determinants of health (SDH). The resource also explores long-term impacts of pandemic measures on health equity.

The authors examine the following using a conceptual framework to differentiate between direct health impacts and indirect SDH impacts:

  • How SDH influence differential risk of COVID-19
  • Differential impacts of public health measures
  • Equity-concerned policy areas

Federal and provincial policy analyses

The authors provide analyses of federal and provincial policies (and their impacts) in the following areas:

  • Income and social status
  • Employment and working conditions
  • Education, literacy and early childhood
  • Food insecurity
  • Housing
  • Social protection
  • Health services
  • Indigenous peoples
  • Gender and sexuality
  • Disability
  • Race/Racism

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the existing health inequities in Canada. Policies and programs implemented during COVID-19 demonstrate a shift from a market-driven, socioeconomic development model, demonstrating the opportunity for systemic transformation. Questions remain about reform moving forward into a post-pandemic era.

Use this resource to

  • understand the impacts of COVID-19 policies and program on SDH;
  • learn about using a COVID-19 and SDH framework; and
  • reconceptualize or plan post-pandemic policies that address SDH.


Ruckert, A., Shedeed, E., Hillier, S. & Labonté, R. (2021). The Canadian policy response to COVID-19: What’s in it for health equity? Research enabling platform 4. University of Ottawa and York University.

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