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Determinants of COVID-19 testing and diagnosis in NB

Category(s): Health
Status: Closed
Principal: Ted McDonald
Project Number: P0067
Year Approved: 2021
Year Completed: 2022

Project Description

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected medical systems worldwide. In Canada, each province established a robust COVID-19 testing program using nasal or oropharyngeal swabs performed in specialized testing centers by trained medical personnel. This system of testing was critical in the public health response to the virus and continues to be used at this time. One consequence of the spread of COVID-19 across the world has been the disproportionate impact on individuals of lower socio-economic status. For this reason, it is critical that our COVID-19 testing program is able to easily test individuals across the socioeconomic spectrum, and that testing is readily available to socially and medically disadvantaged individuals. While significant efforts have been made to make testing widely available, certain facets of the testing program may cause unintended barriers to testing for these individuals. The need to travel to a testing center is an obvious barrier, while socially disadvantaged patients may be unable to take time off for testing as readily as individuals with occupations that allow work to be done remotely. In addition, since testing is voluntary, education around virus transmission, symptoms, and the need for testing may be unequal in different segments of the population. We propose to evaluate the effect that socio-economic status, demographic characteristics, population health, environmental characteristics, and geographic location may have on COVID-19 testing and diagnosis in New Brunswick. This work is a collaboration with a national network of researchers undertaking similar work in Ontario, BC and the Prairie provinces and our methodology has been developed to ensure our results are comparable across jurisdictions. 

If we identify disparities in COVID-19 testing for certain socially disadvantaged groups, policy changes regarding COVID-19 testing may be suggested, possibly using saliva testing at home rather than swab testing in centralized testing centers. 

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