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Ontario must bring a health equity lens to new COVID-19 test technologies and data tools

Dear Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Elliott,

Ontario must bring a health equity lens to new COVID-19 test technologies and data tools

On behalf of Community Health Ontario (CHO), thank you for your leadership in this time of COVID-19.  CHO is a partnership between Addictions and Mental Health Ontario (AMHO), Children’s Mental Health Ontario (CMHO), the Canadian Mental Health Association Ontario Division (CMHA-Ontario), the Ontario Community Support Association (OCSA), the Alliance for Healthier Communities (Alliance), and AdvantAge Ontario.   Together we represent the health community based sector in Ontario.

Community Health Ontario is heartened to hear about new technologies and tools that will aid in the work of addressing COVID-19 across Ontario. These provide a potentially powerful opportunity to address growing inequities in the pandemic’s impact and response for Indigenous communities, Black and racialized communities, on people living in shelters and residential facilities, low wage workers, people who use drugs, low income isolated seniors and other communities who are at high risk of exposure and yet have been de-prioritized in the pandemic response. An open letter on equity in data and at decision-making tables will be sent to you on April 15 2020.  As of today, it has over 900 individual signatures and over 68 organizations.  It is still circulating for signature.

However, given the developments over the weekend, we are now writing to you with two additional urgent requests:

1)      The PANTHR provincial data platform announced on weekend must be equity-informed and inclusive.

The province’s Pandemic Threat Response (PANTHR) health data platform must incorporates health equity in principle and practice, including the collection and use of socio-demographic and race-based data and the principles of Ownership, Control, Access and Possession of Indigenous data.  It must also have equitable inclusion of expertise from Indigenous and marginalized communities at the PANTHR roundtable that is being established “to provide recommendations about the data and policies to support and help overcome barriers while developing this platform.”

2)      Point-of-care testing strategies must prioritize socially marginalized and medically complex people and not just be a return to work strategy.  

Novel tests such as the 900,000 Spartan Bio test kits ordered by the province this week should be immediately put into the hands of front-facing healthcare providers including:

  • health care workers
  • Indigenous communities
  • congregate settings that place residents and workers at high risk of exposure, including long term care facilities and retirement homes, supportive housing and assistive living , shelters for people experiencing homelessness and residential facilities for those living with disability, mental health and/or addictions;
  • rural and remote populations; and
  • healthcare settings that serve populations at risk of racism and discrimination in mainstream healthcare – and who are thus less likely to seek healthcare in mainstream settings – such as Indigenous communities, Black and racialized people, LGBTQ2S+ populations, and Francophones.

In the preamble to the Connecting Care Act, it states “We believe that the public health care system should be guided by a commitment to equity and to the promotion of equitable health outcomes.  Now is the time to put this commitment into action.

We look forward to your timely response. Please contact Adrianna Tetley CEO, Alliance for Healthier Communities if you require more information to move forward on this time-sensitive issue.


Adrianna Tetley, CEO

Alliance for Healthier Communities


On behalf of

  • Adrienne Spafford, CEO, Addictions Mental Health Ontario
  • Lisa Levin, CEO, AdvantAGE Ontario
  • Camille Quenneville, CEO, Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario
  • Kimberly Moran, CEO, Children`s Mental Health Ontario
  • Deborah Simon, CEO, Ontario Community Support Association
Monday, April 13, 2020