Barriers Vulnerable Populations Face Regarding Adherence to COVID-19 Public Health Measures

Last Updated: May 24, 2020

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This note provides a summary of preliminary evidence showing that structural inequities and the social
determinants of health (SDOH) – such as race/ethnicity, indigeneity, sex/gender, socioeconomic position, occupation (i.e., precarious employment), incarceration, and homelessness – may contribute to increased risk of COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, and mortality.

*The full Briefing Note including the Summary of Evidence and Appendix can be accessed in the PDF File located at the top of the page*

Key Findings

Analysis for Ontario:

Supporting Evidence

*The entirety of the Supporting Evidence section can be accessed in the PDF file located at the top of the page*

While the search for scientific evidence linking SDOH directly to rates of COVID-19 infection was extremely limited, preliminary evidence from international surveillance and media reports on links between SDOH and increased prevalence of underlying medical conditions and/or decreased access to health care suggest a likely relationship between SDOH and COVID-19 rates. Racialized (such as Black, Latino and other ethnic minorities) and low-income populations have disproportionately high rates of COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, and mortality in the United States and the United Kingdom. There is also emerging evidence that provides support for these relationships existing in Ontario and Quebec.


The COVID-19 Evidence Synthesis Network is comprised of groups specializing in evidence synthesis and knowledge translation. The group has committed to provide their expertise to provide high-quality, relevant, and timely synthesized research evidence about COVID-19 to inform decision makers as the pandemic continues. The following members of the Network provided evidence synthesis products that were used to develop this Evidence Synthesis Briefing Note:

  • Research, Analysis and Evaluation Branch – Ontario Ministry of Health. 812. Infection Prevention and Control Strategies for People Experiencing Homelessness 21-MAY-2020 (MooreJ – RAE)