Understanding the Associations among Social Vulnerabilities, Indigenous Peoples, and COVID-19 Cases within Canadian Health Regions

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Sep 29;19(19):12409. doi: 10.3390/ijerph191912409.


Indigenous Peoples are at an increased risk for infectious disease, including COVID-19, due to the historically embedded deleterious social determinants of health. Furthermore, structural limitations in Canadian federal government data contribute to the lack of comparative rates of COVID-19 between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. To make visible Indigenous Peoples' experiences in the public health discourse in the midst of COVID-19, this paper aims to answer the following interrelated research questions: (1) What are the associations of key social determinants of health and COVID-19 cases among Canadian health regions? and (2) How do these relationships relate to Indigenous communities? As both proximal and distal social determinants of health conjointly contribute to COVID-19 impacts on Indigenous health, this study used a unique dataset assembled from multiple sources to examine the associations among key social determinants of health characteristics and health with a focus on Indigenous Peoples. We highlight key social vulnerabilities that stem from systemic racism and that place Indigenous populations at increased risk for COVID-19. Many Indigenous health issues are rooted in the historical impacts of colonization, and partially invisible due to systemic federal underfunding in Indigenous communities. The Canadian government must invest in collecting accurate, reliable, and disaggregated data on COVID-19 case counts for Indigenous Peoples, as well as in improving Indigenous community infrastructure and services.

Keywords: COVID-19 pandemic; Indigenous communities; social determinants of health; social vulnerability indicators.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Health Services, Indigenous*
  • Humans
  • Indigenous Peoples
  • Social Vulnerability