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Pivoting data and analytic capacity to support Ontario’s COVID-19 response

Chung H, Azimaee M, Bronskill SE, Cartagena R, Guttmann A, Ho MM, Ishiguro L, Kwong JC, Paterson JM, Ratnasingham S, Rosella L, Schull MJ, Vermeulen MJ, Victor JC. Int J Popul Data Sci. 2022; 5(4):12. Epub 2022 Jan 18. DOI: https://doi.org/10.23889/ijpds.v5i4.1682


Introduction — Health care systems have faced unprecedented challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Access to timely population-based data has been vital to informing public health policy and practice.

Methods — We describe how ICES, an independent not-for-profit research and analytic institute in Ontario, Canada, pivoted existing research infrastructure and engaged health system stakeholders to provide near real-time population-based data and analytics to support Ontario's COVID-19 pandemic response.

Results — Since April 2020, ICES provided the Ontario COVID-19 Provincial Command Table and public health partners with regular and ad hoc reports on SARS-CoV-2 testing and COVID-19 vaccine coverage. These reports: 1) helped identify congregate care/shared living settings that needed testing and prevention efforts early in the pandemic; 2) provided early indications of inequities in testing and infection in marginalized neighbourhoods, including areas with higher proportions of immigrants and visible minorities; 3) identified areas with high test positivity, which helped Public Health Units target and evaluate prevention efforts; and 4) contributed to altering the province's COVID-19 vaccine roll-out strategy to target high-risk neighbourhoods and helping Public Health Units and community organizations plan local vaccination programs. In addition, ICES is a key component of the Ontario Health Data Platform, which provides scientists with data access to conduct COVID-19 research and analyses.

Discussion and Conclusion — ICES was well-positioned to provide rapid analyses for decision-makers to respond to the evolving public health emergency, and continues to contribute to Ontario's pandemic response by providing timely, relevant reports to health system stakeholders and facilitating data access for externally-funded COVID-19 research.

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