Landmark survey used in provincial policies like B.C. school reopenings now public
VANCOUVER -- One of the biggest health surveys in Canadian history is now publicly available and officials are revealing they've been using British Columbians' responses for months, even though the results are only being published now, much later than planned.
The "BC COVID-19 SPEAK: Your story, our future" survey was conducted in the spring and hundreds of thousands of people responded to questions about how the pandemic has impacted their lives.
Young adults and families with young children reported disproportionate financial and stress impacts from the early days of virus.
CTV News asked whether the responses from a time when infections were so low could have any relevance today, when the active cases per capita is double Ontario and worse than Quebec.
"I think that's a valid point, we wish the data were out sooner, it was a very large data set," acknowledged deputy provincial health officer Dr. Reka Gustafson.
She insists the issues highlighted in the survey, which took place after the first wave, are timely a B.C. is in the throes of a second wave
For example, those 18 to 29 years old were nearly twice as likely to be unemployed (27 per cent to 16 per cent overall), while households with children reported a worsening mental health burden as they slept less and consumed more alcohol.
Dr. Jat Sandhu revealed those responses have been available to government policymakers for nearly eight months.
"This data has been used since May to inform some of the guidance documents that've been coming out of BCCDC as well as supporting the Unintended Consequences Working Group — so whilst the data is being released now but already fed into processes and reports and guidance since then," he said.
Gustafson added the survey results also played a big role in the return to school plan. Responses from parents indicated worsening mental health for school-aged children (51 per cent), impaired learning (76 per cent) and increased stress experienced by their child (70 per cent) — all of which factored into the planning around reopening the school system in the fall.
"These data was used for…the report that informed the decision but also communicated the decisions around school closures and the school reopening and a clear way of assessing and communicating the risk for COVID in schools, the risk of school closures on mental health, on the wellbeing of families," she said.
The dashboard is available online.
Results from nearly 400,000 British Columbians are included in an anonymized fashion, but some results were excluded if they didn't complete enough questions or omitted critical information like their age and where they live.