Investigating the mitigating role of Public Health on suicide, drug poisoning, and alcohol-related harm in Ontario, Canada during the COVID‑19 pandemic.
In addition to the rise of morbidity and mortality due to the COVID‑19 pandemic, spillover adverse effects on population health have occurred. Preliminary research has indicated that increases in suicides attempts, drug overdoses, and excessive alcohol consumption are adverse consequences of the pandemic. Furthermore, the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on a number of socio-demographic groups, potentially leading to widening health inequities, and thus further raising public health concern. For example, racial and ethnic minorities, people from lower socioeconomic (SES) backgrounds, and adolescents may be at greater risk for suicide, drug overdose, and excessive alcohol consumption. The overall goal of this study is to estimate the extent to which public health services during the pandemic has lowered the risk for suicide attempts, and drug and alcohol poisoning and deaths attributed to these conditions. Furthermore, we will determine if people from racial/ethnic, lower SES status backgrounds, and adolescents are more likely to benefit from public health services, thereby shrinking health disparities. To answer these important research questions, we will use unique datasets, including the Ontario Public Health Information Database (OPHID), developed by our team, and the Ontario Health Data Platform (OHDP) to assess the association between public health funding, programming, and services, and suicide, and drug and alcohol harm in Ontario, Canada. Specifically, we propose to: 1. Describe how the COVID‑19 pandemic has impacted public health funding, and services, and staffing geared towards prevention of suicide, and drug and alcohol poisoning, across local Public Health Units (PHUs) in Ontario. 2.Estimate the associations between PHU programs, resources, and services and risk for suicide attempts, and drug and alcohol poisoning. 3.To determine whether observed associations are heterogeneous across race, SES status, age, and urban vs. rural residency.