In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing has become increasingly clear: Black communities were (and still are) disproportionately impacted by this disease.
Yet when BC researchers sought the data to further examine the Black community’s relationship with COVID-19, they were met with empty hands. As with many jurisdictions in Canada, the province was not collecting or reporting critical disaggregated data about the Black community or other communities.
This led Dr. Gina Ogilvie and a team of investigators, based on a partnership and direction from Hogan’s Alley Society, to conduct the first survey targeting the Black community titled “Vaccine Intentions Among Black Communities in BC.”
Disaggregated data is data that has been broken down by detailed sub-categories, for example, by cultural or racial groups, gender, sex, region or level of education. Disaggregated data can reveal deprivations and inequalities that may not be fully reflected in aggregated data.
“One of the longstanding lessons from public health practice is: what gets measured, gets done,” says Dr. Ogilvie, Associate Director of the Women’s Health Research Institute and Senior Public Health Scientist at BC Centre for Disease Control. “With the Hogan’s Alley study, we wanted to get data on the Black community to support the Black community.”
In this survey of 303 Black respondents, 95% have received a COVID-19 vaccine. However, half of the respondents who had one dose are unlikely to receive a second dose in the future.
Why? The reasons are multifaceted: worries about side effects (28%), belief the body is capable of naturally fighting it off (22%), belief the vaccine is ineffective (22%), feelings the vaccine was developed too quickly (22%), and mistrust of the government (6%).
Further, this study captured respondents’ feelings about whether they would vaccinate their children. While 57% were likely, with 9% already having done so, 34% were unlikely to let it happen.
It was also found that 72% of respondents identified as women; and non-binary. But that’s to be expected, says Dr. Ogilvie.
“Women tend to respond to health questionnaires and engage in conversations about health with their family,” says Dr. Ogilvie. “Women take a deep interest in health, and if a woman is healthy, families are more likely to be healthy. Women tend to focus on and prioritize family health.”
Respondent data is full of valuable information for Dr. Ogilvie and her colleagues to help target and deliver better health support for the Black community.
To Dr. Ogilvie, this is just the beginning.
The power of data
“We don’t gather and analyze data and then do nothing with it,” says Dr. Ogilvie. “We analyze to act. We want to enact policy. We want to enact change. This is an exemplar to say, ‘This is what we missed by not routinely having disaggregated data.’ We need to prioritize disaggregated data as we go forward.”
Dr. Ogilvie and her colleagues have completed step one of their three research goals. Next, they aim to use this information to inform and direct policy and actions that will better serve and support Black communities. Finally, they aim to inform planning and ensure equitable prioritization of health system resources and interventions.
“As I said, what goes unmeasured ultimately cannot be addressed,” says Dr. Ogilvie. “Now that we have started, I have a few things I would love to see.”
Dr. Ogilvie is focused on a few key outcomes: assembling of a Black health cohort in BC to routinely conduct health surveys. Working with the BCCDC to identify urgent health needs for the Black community in this province. And most importantly, to establish a best practice process where Public Health routinely and thoughtfully engages the Black community by utilizing the disaggregated data they collected.
These steps would establish a best practices framework, which could then be used to help other communities.
“With these, we can monitor trends, see if there’s improvements, and make informed decisions that truly impact the health of the community,” says Dr. Ogilvie.
Dr. Gina Ogilvie is the Associate Director of the Women’s Health Research Institute, Senior Research Advisor at BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre, and a Senior Public Health Scientist at BC Centre for Disease Control. She is a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Global Control of HPV related diseases and prevention, and Professor at the University of British Columbia in the School of Population and Public Health.