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Community Support Systems and the Economy

For a population to be healthy and well, people need to have the ability to fulfill basic personal needs, such as income/employment, education, housing, and the ability to be safe in one’s home and community. Income, education, housing, and sense of safety are four “determinants of health,” meaning that they have direct or indirect effects on the health and wellness of an individual. For more information about determinants of health, see Taking the Pulse of the Population: An Update on the Health of British Columbians.  

COVID-19 has had a substantial impact on the basic structures of society that allow people to meet their needs, including employment and education sectors. We are currently assessing these and other structural changes, which have also impacted critical support systems in our communities, including those related to experiences of domestic or community violence and food security. The pandemic has created both an increased demand for many community services as well as a reduced capacity to offer or implement them.

The reports in this section are ordered based on determinants of health and well-being and the structures and systems that support them:

Education

Schools play a fundamental role in the lives of children, youth, families, and communities. School environments support the learning, growth, health, and development of children and youth. Specialized services and programs offered by schools are important for health and promote more equitable outcomes among students from different socio-economic backgrounds and students with different needs—from food programming to learning support. We have learned that keeping schools open as safely as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic is also key to mitigating many negative societal consequences. We are assessing how suspension of in-class learning in 2020 and modifications to the 2020/21 school year have created challenges for education sectors and the people who are engaged in them.

School and program closures have had immediate impacts on students and families, extending well into the lives of British Columbians. School and program closures have affected different populations unevenly and exacerbated existing socioeconomic inequities.

Report forthcoming
Students with special needs often rely on a variety of programs and services provided by schools (e.g., education supports, behavioural intervention, school therapy, afterschool care). School closures and other response measures that interrupt these support systems can cause challenges and negatively impact students with special needs and their families.

Report forthcoming
COVID-19 response measures can lead to delays for screening and diagnoses of developmental and psychoeducational diagnoses among students. School closures also deny teachers the opportunity to identify challenges that their students face. When these challenges remain undetected, educational disparities can widen, and students may fall further behind and struggle to catch up.

Report forthcoming

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Violence & Safety

Unfortunately, new risks to the safety and wellbeing of individuals and groups have emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic. As people increasingly remain at home and avoid public and community spaces, gender-based violence has risen. Meanwhile, reports of racism and violence targeting minority groups, including individuals with Asian backgrounds, have also increased. We are currently monitoring the emergence and increase in violence and safety risks during the pandemic.

While racism and violence against people from Asian backgrounds existed before the COVID-19 pandemic, attacks have since worsened and increased. People from Chinese backgrounds and people who “look Asian” are being targeted partially because many people believe COVID-19 originated in China and some countries banning travel from China. 

For examination of racism experienced by Indigenous people, please see Indigenous Health & Wellness. 

Report forthcoming

As households engage in more cleaning practices to prevent the risk of exposure and transmission of COVID-19, individuals and families may be at greater risk for exposure to chemicals and hazardous substances from cleaning products (e.g., bleaches, disinfectants).


Report forthcoming

 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, frontline and public facing workers (e.g., teachers, delivery workers, transportation workers, nurses) may suffer a reduced perception of safety at work (e.g., stress, anxiety, time pressures, heavier workloads, unsafe conditions).


Report forthcoming

 
Isolation measures and an increase in life stressors due to the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g., financial strains, job loss, school closures) have heightened the risk and worsened the impacts of gender-based violence (GBV). GBV affects BC’s diverse population in different ways, and COVID-19 response measures have affected how GBV is experienced and how people can ask for help. 

Report forthcoming
Exceptional events, including pandemics like COVID-19, can impact the behaviour and activities of a population, which can facilitate the conditions for some types of crime to increase, while others to decrease. This can impact the sense of safety individuals experience in their communities. Victims of crime can incur a range of physical, mental, emotional, social, and financial injuries.

Report forthcoming
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Income, Employment, the Workforce & Material Well-being

Food security, housing, employment, and workplace safety are critical social and economic factors that strongly influence and determine our health and well-being. We are monitoring how COVID-19 response measures for businesses such as closures, limiting hours of operation, and reducing capacity are impacting the BC economy. We are also looking into how these economic impacts have resulted in reductions or loss in income, which has led to housing and food insecurity for individuals and families. 

The economy (including increases in unemployment), and food systems, have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and response measures, which has led to a rise in food insecurity among individuals and families in BC. The charitable food sector has similarly been affected, resulting in reduced emergency capacity to meet growing needs.


Report forthcoming

 

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, government response measures as well as personal and employment safety protocols were introduced in workplaces to prevent COVID-19 infections and transmission (e.g., hand hygiene, surface cleaning, personal protective equipment (PPE), plexiglass barriers, sick leave policies). These infection prevention and control efforts can improve workplace health and safety. 


Report forthcoming

 

The social and economic impacts from COVID-19 response measures can cause short and long-term repercussions on housing security for many—from individuals who rent or have a mortgage to individuals who are precariously housed or unsheltered. Measures to prevent exposure and transmission of COVID-19 can also disproportionately impact vulnerable populations (e.g., capacity challenges for social and supportive housing providers, increased occupancy in encampments). 


Report forthcoming

 
BC’s unemployment rate increased during the COVID-19 pandemic in part due to the temporary closure of non-essential services and restrictions on other industries (e.g., restaurants, travel). Many businesses have struggled to make enough revenue since the pandemic, causing some businesses to close temporarily, while others closed permanently. Unemployment and underemployment can harm physical and mental health.

Report forthcoming
COVID-19 and related response measures have exacerbated traditional working conditions that affect stress, chronic stress, and/or burnout among employees. Workers’ fear of catching COVID-19 at work, of not being paid if one must take time off work to self-isolate, and the fear of returning to work after a workplace outbreak, has compounded these issues. 

Report forthcoming
Income is a key social determinant of health. Income can determine living conditions, as well as influence lifestyle and health-related behaviours (e.g., healthy eating, physical activity, substance use). While government financial aid may have offset the employment income losses for some during the COVID-19 pandemic, the wider impact of income loss will still need to be measured and understood. 

Report forthcoming
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