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Data Collection, Healthcare Reflection

Healthcare in a pandemic is hard on every touchpoint in the system. But there are parts, and in particular, people, that are affected more than others.  


But exactly who, why and how can be elusive... until data collection and examination are brought in.  

Aideen Reynolds is Supervisor, Population Health Approach at Ottawa Public Health. 

Image by Agence Olloweb

“Collecting socio-demographic information from clients helps us to understand who we're reaching with our programs and services. And often, more importantly, who we are NOT reaching."

- Aideen Reynolds

“Ottawa Public Health collected socio-demographic data, including racial identity data from people who tested positive with COVID-19,” said Aideen.  

As outlined in a COVID-19 and Racial Identity in Ottawa Report, “Examination of this data early in the pandemic highlighted structural and systemic inequities and barriers that pre-existed COVID-19. For example, we saw an over-representation of people who are racialized and/or immigrants. These communities are not more susceptible to COVID, but underlying social realities, such as systemic racism, barriers to health information and services and/or participation in occupations without access to paid sick leave contributed to people’s exposure to COVID-19. While long-term solutions are needed to reduce barriers to health and social services, having this data allowed us to increase outreach to communities and tailor messaging in culturally safe ways to reduce further COVID-19 transmission.” 

Checking a Tablet

The OHT-ÉSO wants to build capacity to collect and use this type of information on a broader scale to find the gaps in providing and accessing care. It brought together a group of Partners in September to investigate what type of data is already being collected and how. 


“Collecting socio-demographic information from clients helps us to understand who we're reaching with our programs and services. And often, more importantly, who we are NOT reaching,” said Aideen.

“Having this information can tell us where we need to engage communities, to enhance outreach, to connect with people who might need services but are not accessing due to inequities or barriers that they experience in their lives.” 


Obstacles do exist across providers as well, including safe systems to collect and store this

information; incompatible software for information sharing and a lack of resources.

Some of the challenges are also expected on a more personal level. 


“We've heard a lot of concern or discomfort at the idea of asking for this information,” said Aideen.

“People on the frontlines don't necessarily understand the purpose for requesting this information from clients, what will be done with the information, and the relevance or benefit to clients.

There's also perceived and/or real discomfort on the part of the client to provide this information.

So, there's work to be done to create a culture of safety for this information to be asked for and provided on both sides."

"Our experience during COVID-19 has been that people are, in fact, very willing to provide this socio-demographic information if they understand the purpose and how the information will be used.”

Aideen Reynolds, Supervisor, Population Health Approach, Ottawa Public Health 

Communication with stakeholders and clients will be a big part of the Performance Measurement Working Group’s mandate as it begins to collect experiences and information to inform its work. Guided by a Quality Improvement approach, the needs and realities as to where partners are right now will drive one of its first key initiatives, supporting OHT-ÉSO partner capacity to use socio-demographic data to inform the delivery of care. 

Partners can expect to learn more about this initiative to increase socio-demographic data collection capacity as project outreach begins later this fall. 

Health Equity Charter

 Ottawa Health Team - Équipe Santé Ottawa   

The Ottawa Health Team - Équipe Santé envisions a redesigned health system in which people are healthy, well and supported to live in the community. The Ottawa Health Team-Équipe Santé Health Equity Charter will facilitate shared responsibility for promoting health equity as the foundation for this health system transformation. To fight inequities and oppression, it is necessary to examine structures, policies, and programs and work to ensure that systems are fair and equitable for everyone. 

The Health Equity Charter is one of the foundational documents for the Ottawa Health Team - Équipe Santé Ottawa and the endorsement of the Charter is required of all partners. 

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