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Department of Family and Community Medicine and St. Michael’s Academic Family Health Team

SDOH Committee: COVID-19 Working Group

About the SDOH COVID-19 Working Group

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic related to COVID-19.

COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted individuals and groups on the basis of social determinants of health (SDOH). Vulnerable populations include the elderly, people with disabilities, people with precarious work or low income, people who are homeless, people who are incarcerated, 2SLGBTQI+, people with lower literacy, people with significant mental illness and addictions, and racialized or Indigenous persons who are already subject to systemic racism and structural inequities.

In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated a rapid shift in models of care in Canada, to promote physical distancing and enhance health care capacity for treating COVID-19 cases. Our department underwent significant changes to clinic operations, with several staff being re-deployed. Early on it was apparent that a specific focus on equity and vulnerable populations would be required and a SDOH Committee-COVID-19 Working Group was created.


The SDOH-COVID Working Group aims to support the SMH DFCM and AFHT during and after the COVID-19 pandemic by:

  • Applying a health equity lens to clinical operations, teaching, research, and quality improvement
  • Coordinating SDOH-related activities
  • Engaging with the community in advocacy


Interdisciplinary team including social workers, psychologist, nurses, health promoters, community engagement specialist, lawyer, nurse practitioners, physicians, and clerical support.


The SDOH Committee identified several priority populations based on the socioeconomic and medical risk that COVID-19 and pandemic related measures impose:

  • Elderly
  • People with disabilities
  • People with severe mental illness
  • People who use substances
  • People who are homeless
  • People with low income and/or food insecurity
  • Indigenous people
  • Racialized people
  • 2SLGBTQI+ people

To improve equity and mitigate risk among our patients and the community, our group has undertaken or supported a number of activities:

Wellness checks Telephone calls from a trained team to check in with patients - > 1800 calls between March and June 2020
Equity-focused operations review Involvement in clinical service planning, creation of specific care pathways for vulnerable patients, application of a Health Equity Impact Assessment (HEIA) tool
Resource dissemination Creation of a Marginalized Populations COVID Resource Google Drive; creation of patient educational materials, communications to staff and patients
Addressing patient needs Projects to meet needs and fill gaps for patients - tablets, cell phone, grocery gift cards, cloth masks
Advocacy Collaboration with community partners, campaign sharing, and systemic advocacy