Toronto Public Health (TPH) is developing and implementing plans to resume or expand public health functions not related to COVID-19 response, while continuing to respond to the pandemic, including potential future surges.
TPH has identified three key goals that will guide this work:
TPH will report back to the Board of Health in 2023 with an update on new, resumed, and enhanced public health functions, as well as a process for the development of a new strategic plan to guide TPH’s long-term priorities.
TPH has identified priority actions for the remainder of 2022 and into 2023:
These priority actions include: restoring routine public health programming; reducing backlogs; collaborating with partners and other governments to expand access to resources, programs, and services; and developing policies that support the social determinants of health.
As part of fall 2022 preparedness planning, there will be a continued need to respond to COVID-19, prepare for a challenging respiratory virus season and other potential emerging disease threats. The recent monkeypox and meningococcal disease outbreaks demonstrate the need to manage current challenges while reserving the capacity to respond to emerging issues.
Due to the scale of the COVID-19 response, TPH paused most routine public health functions and redeployed the majority of staff. This allowed TPH to maintain operations for a number of critical programs and services (for example, environmental health inspections and investigations, responding to the drug poisoning epidemic, and critical communicable disease control activities).
Over the past two and a half years, TPH has achieved a number of significant milestones.
As part of the resumption of non-COVID-19 related public health functions, TPH is continuing implementation of its Toronto Indigenous Health Strategy, a joint strategy with Ontario Health and Indigenous partners to reduce health disparities and to support Indigenous communities.
TPH has partnered with Indigenous organizations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to address the immediate needs of the COVID-19 response in the areas of testing, vaccination strategies, and communicable disease control initiatives, such as case and contact management. TPH will continue to offer COVID-19-related information and recovery resources, such as vaccination strategy planning support, to Indigenous organizations, and engage with Indigenous partners in other emerging priorities, such as monkeypox vaccination.
COVID-19 has exacerbated long-standing systemic social and health inequities related to poverty, racism, other forms of discrimination, and access to supports and services.
Individuals and families living in low-income, densely populated communities, persons with disabilities, newcomers, racialized communities, and Indigenous and Black Torontonians continue to be disproportionally impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic with higher rates of COVID-19 positivity and hospitalization, and lower vaccination rates.
One of TPH’s key guiding principles to the resumption of non-COVID-19-related functions is equity. The assessment of how to decrease inequities is prevalent as pre-existing health, social and economic disparities have been highlighted and deepened by the pandemic.
Dr. Eileen de Villa
Medical Officer of Health, Toronto Public Health