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Dr. Marcia Anderson in front of a teal backdrop

Dr. Marcia Anderson

Free Press: Race-based data a hallmark of pandemic response

June 20, 2022 — 

As the Winnipeg Free Press reports:

First-of-its-kind race-based data that was a hallmark of Manitoba’s early COVID-19 response is expected to be used more widely in its health-care system in the near future.

“COVID helped us to establish it could be done,” said Dr. Marcia Anderson, who was public health lead for the Manitoba First Nations COVID-19 Pandemic Coordination Response Team and driving force behind collecting and advocating for practical applications of the data.

The data shaped Manitoba’s vaccine roll out, from age eligibility to neighbourhood distribution, and led to the establishment of isolation shelters and homeless and youth outreach.

Combined with employment data, it influenced government policies and prompted the province to give everyone paid leave to get vaccinated. It was the first time race-based data was systematically collected in Manitoba.

Now, Indigenous agencies are still relying on this kind of information to improve third-dose vaccine uptake and overall health.

They are starting to track positive rapid tests, and are looking forward to a future beyond COVID-19 — one where Indigenous epidemiologists help maintain the “data sovereignty” necessary to improve disproportionate rates of chronic disease among Indigenous and marginalized groups and potentially put an end to systemic racism in health care.

Getting the data in the first place was the result of decades of advocacy by First Nations.

Anderson, now vice-dean of Indigenous health, social justice and anti-racism for University of Manitoba’s faculty of health sciences, said work is ongoing to make sure the data “is available for future.”

A Shared Health spokesperson stated Friday system leaders are looking into how race-based data can inform future health planning.

Manitoba was the first province to roll out vaccine distribution with age eligibility for First Nations set 20 years younger than the general population, based on data revealing First Nations people generally became sicker at younger ages. Other provinces followed suit, after Anderson was invited to present her findings.

Read the full Free Press story here.

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