Our Role in Helping to Address the COVID-19 Pandemic
January 30th, 2020. Little did we know at the time what impact that date would have on our world. It was the day the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the novel coronavirus (to become known as COVID-19) outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
As a public health organization, we immediately leapt into action.
We knew we needed to learn as much as we could about this virus (later named SARS-CoV-2), as quickly as we could. We needn’t look farther than to our partners at the BC Centre for Disease Control, where scientists, researchers, and experts were quickly shifting their attention to COVID-19 response.
To do so, they needed immediate funding. And so, our Emergency Response Fund was launched in January 2020.
At the time, risk of infection was still low in BC, but our flexibility and proactive approach allowed us to create this fund quickly. It also gave people an opportunity to do something to help support the research and other response efforts that were going to help keep themselves, their families, and their communities protected.
People gave what they could. Since, gifts ranging from $3.00 to over $150,000.00 flooded in from over 1,000 people who were eager to support COVID-19 research and response.
Over 50 BC businesses supported these efforts as well, some finding innovative ways to raise money for the cause.
Meanwhile, as donations to our Emergency Response Fund began to come in, through our existing resources we were able to rapidly fund a study led by microbiology researchers at the BC Centre for Disease Control that tested for COVID-19 in BC’s wastewater to help track the spread of the virus in our communities. Stay tuned for updates on this project.
We’re also proud to have funded the BC COVID-19 SPEAK Survey: Your Story, Our Future which helped researchers learn about the experiences, knowledge, and actions of the people living in our province. Completed by nearly 400,000 British Columbians, the first BC COVID-19 SPEAK Survey was the largest population health survey ever conducted in Canada at that time.
Following the survey, we funded the BC COVID-19 SPEAK Survey Dashboard, an interactive platform showcasing the results of the BC COVID-19 SPEAK Survey, putting the data in the hands of the public, allowing them to see what was happening in their specific communities, as well as helping them to understand the experiences of British Columbians as a whole.
One of the key findings of the BC COVID-19 SPEAK Survey showed that young adults were among the hardest hit by the pandemic and related response measures, resulting in “Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Health and Well-Being of Young Adults in British Columbia,” a report that will be used to support the health and well-being of young adults and their communities across BC.
Researchers at the BC Centre for Disease Control were also interested in understanding the experiences of British Columbians one year into the pandemic, resulting in us funding the BC COVID-19 SPEAK Survey Round 2! (And stay tuned, because we’re currently working on knowledge translation work with the BC COVID-19 SPEAK Survey team that we’re excited to share with you soon!)
But raising money isn’t all we do; as a public health organization, and especially in the midst of a public health crisis, we also have a responsibility to educate and inform.
Words like “pandemic,” “cluster,” “case,” and “incubation period,” for instance, were new terms some were hearing for the first time, prompting us to create the two-part series, “Pandemics & How to Flatten the Curve” and “Pandemics: The Terminology,” in order for individuals to understand why public health leaders were urging them to take precautions like washing their hands, wearing a mask, and social distancing, for example.
We also created graphics to help illustrate how to wear a mask, how far apart two metres is, how kids could stay safe at school, and more. In particular, our role in distilling complicated information for our readers has been important.
With all the information we were creating and sharing, we wanted to ensure easy access, so we created a COVID-19 resources page.
In general, COVID-19 caused the spread of much information, and rightly so. Yet unfortunately, where there is information, there is also mis- and disinformation. As a result, we took it upon ourselves to write about mis/disinformation, more specifically, how to stop the spread of it, “Addressing the Infodemic: Everyone Must Play a Role in Stopping Mis- and Disinformation.” We also interviewed the Principal Investigators for a BCCDC study around misinformation.
With the inception of a novel COVID-19 vaccine, there also rose much misinformation about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines causing some to be hesitant in receiving it, prompting us to write “Vaccine Hesitancy: Foe of Healthy Communities.”
Understanding we can’t tackle everything alone, we knew that collaboration would be, and continues to be, key.
In June 2020, we joined forces with UBC, VGH + UBC Hospital Foundation, and BC Cancer Foundation to form the BC COVID-19 Combat Collective to support experts carrying out critical research needed to prevent, test, and treat COVID-19.
In early 2021, we then partnered with Genome BC and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research to launch the “Rapid SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine Research Initiative in BC” and collectively funded 9 vaccine-related research studies to address questions around the long-term effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines, equitable distribution, countering misinformation, and more.
And now, approximately 19 months into the pandemic, we’re proud to look back on all the work we’ve done, the new partnerships we’ve formed, and the education we’ve provided to help keep the people of British Columbia well-informed and researchers well-funded.
Yet, our work, and that of our COVID-19 researchers, our leaders, and the health and safety of those living in British Columbia, continues.
Whether you’ve donated to our Emergency Response Fund, are following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn, subscribed to our monthly newsletter, or share our content with your community, thank you. We can’t do any of this work without the help of our donors and supporters—know that you’ve been a vital part of our provinces’ success so far.
We can’t forget to thank all of the British Columbians who have been doing, and continue to do, their part—those who have gotten both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and encouraged others to do so, kept their distance, wore their masks, stayed home when feeling unwell, and every other protective measure in between.
“We’re proud of the work you’ve done, and continue to do, to keep yourself and your community safe. At the same time, we recognize that our work is far from over and we have both a privilege and a responsibility to the people of BC to continue to protect and promote health, prevent harm, and prepare for threats. We’re a small organization with a big mission, and while we’re tired like many, we’re also energized as more and more British Columbians get vaccinated every day.“–Kristy Kerr, Executive Director, BCCDC Foundation for Public Health
As we continue to support COVID-19 response efforts, we must also turn our minds to recovery. You can help our communities see brighter days ahead by donating to our Emergency Response Fund, and help us shape the story of BC’s success in the coming months, and beyond.