Community Health Centres & COVID-19 Impact and Experiences from the Pandemic


In March 2021, the Canadian Association of Community Health Centres (CACHC)
conducted a detailed survey of Community Health Centres (CHCs) across Canada to document
the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the clients and communities they serve, as well as
CHCs’ experiences in adapting and mounting local responses. More than one hundred CHCs1
(n=117), from nine provinces, participated. The survey covered a wide range of issues and
factors related to the pandemic, excluding experiences related to vaccines and vaccinations,
which will be covered via a future study.

Results from the CACHC survey, presented here, confirm that the pandemic has had a
disproportionate toll on individuals, groups, and communities that were already facing social
inequities and systemic barriers to health prior to the pandemic. In fact, 73% of CHCs across
Canada report that the pandemic has had a more severe negative impact on the clients they
serve than on the general population in their region. This includes an increase in food
insecurity; reduced access to housing and shelter; diminished employment and income security;
and an increase in many other negative factors on health and wellbeing.

Results from the survey also illustrate the many ways that CHCs have effectively
responded to the needs of vulnerable and marginalized community members across the country
throughout the pandemic. Not only did CHCs remain open in the early months of the pandemic
when many other service providers were closing their doors, CHCs have:

• created safe, accessible spaces for individuals in need of ongoing, in-person care and
social services;
• increased virtual services (e.g. telehealth) to ensure continuity of care and support;
• operated and staffed COVID-19 assessment centres;
• Increased outreach and support in the community through mobile care units,
outreach teams, home deliveries of essential goods; and more.

In 2021, this expanded to include activities focused on increasing awareness, confidence, and
uptake of COVID-19 vaccines, including delivery of vaccine clinics.

Despite the very positive impact CHCs have had, results from the survey also underscore
inequities and gaps experienced by many CHCs across Canada, limiting their capacity to meet
the needs of many vulnerable community members. These barriers include a lack of core
funding for nearly 25% of all CHCs across Canada, ongoing infrastructure needs, and exclusion
from provincial programs and enhancements provided to other service providers and agencies.

Survey results are provided in three segments within this report: demographic and
organizational data from CHCs; impact of COVID-19 on clients and community; and impact of
COVID-19 on CHCs and CHC responses to the pandemic. Each of these segments provides
aggregate results from all participating CHCs. Additional analysis of survey results will be
provided over the months ahead to further Inform public policy.


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