Publications Publication - Considering social inequalities in health in large-scale testing for COVID-19 in Montréal: A qualitative case study

Une publication de Marie-Catherine Gagnon-Dufresne (UdeM) et al.  BMC Public Health 22, 749 (2022). En open access grâce au soutien de l'axe ISSE (Concours de soutien aux publications 2021-2022).

Auteur.e.s : Marie-Catherine Gagnon-Dufresne, Lara Gautier, Camille Beaujoin, Ashley Savard Lamothe, Rachel Mikanagu, Patrick Cloos, Valéry Ridde & Kate Zinszer 

Résumé des auteur.e.s - Authors' abstract

Background

Evidence continues to demonstrate that certain marginalised populations are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. While many studies document the impacts of COVID-19 on social inequalities in health, none has examined how public health responses to the pandemic have unfolded to address these inequities in Canada. The purpose of our study was to assess how social inequalities in health were considered in the design and planning of large-scale COVID-19 testing programs in Montréal (Québec, Canada).

Methods

Part of the multicountry study HoSPiCOVID, this article reports on a qualitative case study of large-scale testing for COVID-19 in Montréal. We conducted semi-structured interviews with 19 stakeholders involved in planning large-scale testing or working with vulnerable populations during the pandemic. We developed interview guides and a codebook using existing literature on policy design and planning, and analysed data deductively and inductively using thematic analysis in NVivo.

Results

Our findings suggest that large-scale COVID-19 testing in Montréal did not initially consider social inequalities in health in its design and planning phases. Considering the sense of urgency brought by the pandemic, participants noted the challenges linked to the uptake of an intersectoral approach and of a unified vision of social inequalities in health. However, adaptations were gradually made to large-scale testing to improve its accessibility, acceptability, and availability. Actors from the community sector, among others, played an important role in supporting the health sector to address the needs of specific subgroups of the population.

Conclusions

These findings contribute to the reflections on the lessons learned from COVID-19, highlighting that public health programs must tackle structural barriers to accessing healthcare services during health crises. This will be necessary to ensure that pandemic preparedness and response, including large-scale testing, do not further increase social inequalities in health.