Evaluating pandemic interventions in Indigenous communities (EPIC): A community-based participatory approach to address gaps and build capacity
Canada’s pandemic response to COVID‑19 has substantial shortfalls, particularly with protecting the health of Indigenous communities. A significant gap remains regarding the generation and evaluation of local pandemic plans in Indigenous communities as these are not addressed in an Indigenous context in any planning guidelines. While the WHO pandemic guidelines, the CPIP, and the OHP for an Influenza Pandemic provide guidance for developing pandemic plans for the general population, these documents fail to adequately address the needs of marginalised groups, such as Indigenous communities. Public health emergency preparedness is vital to mitigate the impact of pathogens that cause social and economic disruptions, especially in First Nations communities facing structural inequities and lasting impacts of colonization. In remote Indigenous communities, outbreaks have devastating consequences resulting from fly-in-only isolation combined with a community’s lack of ability to rapidly provide adequate care and protection. Importantly, within many First Nations communities there are people with diverse health status (e.g., individuals with comorbidities) and represent a younger demographic profile compared to non-Indigenous Canadians. The Evaluating Pandemic Interventions in Indigenous Communities (EPIC) project will evaluate and update pandemic plans in collaboration with members and leaders of two First Nation communities with relevant science-based tools that support capacity building and self-reliance. To address gaps and build capacity for the COVID‑19 and future pandemic responses the program will evaluate community-implemented mitigation measures to reduce the impact of COVID‑19 on health care systems and services, and improve provided support services. The project will result in revised local pandemic plans that contain learnings which can be transferred to other Indigenous communities and host an international symposium to develop a best-practices framework.