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A call to action from Global Health leaders at Queen's

A call to action from Global Health leaders at Queen's

I am pleased to share a guest blog with you today, written by the COVID-19 Pandemic Working Group of Global Health at OPDES. This group of faculty and staff members within the Faculty of Health Sciences endeavours to:

  • Advocate for health equity to be considered in all aspects of the Faculty of Health Science and Queen’s University’s response to the pandemic;
  • Raise the health concerns of and challenges faced by marginalized patients and populations in our community;
  • Support global health and equity-focused practitioners, researchers and learners in local and international communities; and
  • Support community partners who are already engaged in equity focused work
  • Support and advance the work of the Director of Global Health at OPDES.

As with Dr. Fayed’s blog published last week, the COVID-19 Pandemic Working Group of Global Health highlights a critical issue, and asks us to consider the fulsome impact of the crisis that we find ourselves in today. I invite you to share your thoughts by commenting below.



It is becoming increasingly clear that within countries, cities and communities, we are witnessing vast disparities in outcomes as a result of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Across our country, vulnerable populations with chronic illnesses and disabilities, those incarcerated, those in poverty, and those living in long-term care homes, have borne the brunt of this disease. We also know that the health impacts of this pandemic go far beyond the direct morbidity and mortality related to SARS-CoV-2. Social distancing and the economic standstill will affect us differently as social determinants of health continue to dictate different outcomes in the same city, county, province or state. The pandemic has revealed disparities related to access to technology, connectivity and transportation, geographic distance to health centers, and basic shelter.

As the pandemic unfolds in Canada and in different countries, it has become clear that there are grave health equity considerations that academic institutions such as the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) at Queen’s University have an obligation to address. Our commitment to health equity requires us to work to reduce and eliminate disparities in health outcomes—to ensure social justice in health. Disparities are avoidable adverse health outcomes caused by structural factors and social determinants of health that affect people experiencing homelessness, mental health or substance use concerns, racialized people and Indigenous persons, those experiencing family violence, and people living with disabilities, among others. 

In addition to being at the frontline of the immediate medical and public health response, FHS faculty members must engage with our communities locally and globally to address the pandemic using a robust health equity lens. We call upon all members of the Faculty to consider health equity in the way we educate, the types of research questions we choose to ask, and how we advocate for patients and populations during and after the pandemic.

If you are a faculty member or a learner who is doing an equity-related activity, if you want to raise awareness about an equity-related issue associated with the pandemic, if you have questions and need to be connected to experts or resources, or if you have ideas for optimizing the way in which health equity and disparities are addressed in the FHS, please comment on the blog, or better yet, reach out to us at Global.Health@queensu.ca.  We are aiming to encourage dialogue, bring resources, facilitate partnerships and highlight advocacy, education, and research in health equity at FHS

For more information, please visit our webpage.

Yours sincerely,

Drs. Nazik Hammad, Eva Purkey, Colleen Davison, Heather Aldersey, Faizal Haji, Susan Bartels, Rosemary Wilson and Eleftherios Soleas on behalf of the Pandemic working group of Global Health at the Office of Professional Development and Education Scholarship (OPDES), FHS.


  1. Armitage, R., Nellums. The COVID-19 response must be disability inclusive, Lancet Public Health, Published Online March 27, 2020 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S2468-2667(20)30076-1
  2. Dorn, A. et al. COVID-19 exacerbating inequalities in the US. The Lancet, Volume 395, Issue 10232, 1243 – 1244 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30893-X
  3. Hall, K et al. Centring sexual and reproductive health and justice in the global COVID-19 response. The Lancet, Volume 395, Issue 10231, 1175 – 1177 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30801-1
  4. Owen WF, Carmona R, Pomeroy C. Failing Another National Stress Test on Health Disparities. JAMA. Published online April 15, 2020. DOI: https://doi:10.1001/jama.2020.6547   
  5. Paakkari, Leena et al. COVID-19: health literacy is an underestimated problem. The Lancet Public Health, Volume 0, Issue 0 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S2468-2667(20)30086-4
  6. Wang, Z., Tang, K. Combating COVID-19: health equity matters. Nat Med, 26458. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41591-020-0823-6
  7. Wurcel et al. Spotlight on Jails: COVID-19 Mitigation Policies Needed Now, Clinical Infectious Diseases. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/ciaa346
  8. https://disabilitydebrief.substack.com/p/where-we-are-now-disability-in-the
  9. http://globalaccessibilitynews.com/2020/04/14/advisory-group-to-help-canadians-with-disabilities-during-covid-19/

Leslie Flynn

Thu, 05/14/2020 - 14:51

Let me express my sincere appreciation to you all for writing about this critical issue. It has been difficult, at the best of times, to convey that Global Health is not simply about health in international jurisdictions. Your very timely piece is critical to our understanding. Further, the pandemic has brought the disparities into stark relief in our communities, whether they be local or global. Thank you for your work and for your invitation to participate in the pursuit of health equity. I am willing to support your efforts in whatever way I can.

Leslie Flynn

Richard Reznick

Fri, 05/15/2020 - 14:59


Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments. As you know, I share your perspective, and agree that the authors have brought important focus to a pressing issue.

Richard Reznick

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