Community-partnered infectious disease modeling to inform Covid-19 policies and advocacy in Nunavik
In mid-October 2021, Covid-19 finally arrived in epidemic form in Nunavik. At the time of writing (November 21, 2021), 817 Nunavimmiut have been diagnosed with Covid-19. The incidence in the region is currently 5836 per 100,000 over a 45-day period. Life in the region has been heavily impacted, including closure of schools, non-essential businesses, and limitations on intra- and extra-regional travel. Public health and medical services policymakers have to make decisions, quickly, in such circumstances. Nunavik is distinct with respect to demographics, geography, availability of medical services, socioeconomic conditions, and its historical-political context. This uniqueness means that copy-pasting tools and choices that have been used in southern Quebec will not suffice. One tool that has been used around the world to help guide public health and medical policy decisions in the face of Covid-19, is infectious disease modelling. At the onset of the fall 2021 covid-19 outbreak in Nunavik, a small group of scientists, local clinicians, and community members came together to inform the creation of a dynamic transmission model for one Nunavik village that was most heavily affected by the outbreak. We built the model to be Nunavik specific– to reflect unique demographics, social interactions (such as frequent inter-generational interactions), and the specific public health measures applied. The model predicts incidence, hospitalizations, and deaths. The collaborative modelling work is one way to increase community participation and leadership in covid-19 related policymaking, and can also provide community health committees with additional advocacy tools (modeling results) that they have helped create. Community participation in modeling increases legitimacy of key parameters that would otherise be impossible to make assumptions around. We are applying for funding to strengthen our modeling approaches and to be able to expand this work to other communities.