May 2021 – Economists at Queen’s University have received a major grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) to build a Canada-wide network of researchers working at the intersection of public health, epidemiology, and economics.
The Queen’s researchers are helping lead the team that won the two-year, $1.25 million grant through NSERC’s Emerging Infectious Disease Modeling Initiative. The Queen’s and University of Alberta based team, referred to as the One Society Network, is one of five groups to receive funding through the initiative. While the other four recipients focus on building Canada’s capacity at epidemiological modeling, the One Society Network is the only group focused on understanding the broader impacts of infectious diseases and public health policy on outcomes involving economics, education, environment, and inequality.
Professor Christopher Cotton from the Queen’s Economics Department (QED) and JDI will co-lead the network with Professor Christopher McCabe from the Institute for Health Economics in Alberta. The team also includes Professor Huw Lloyd-Ellis (QED) who is leading the network’s efforts to model the impact of public health policy on macroeconomic outcomes, and Professors Troy Day and Felicia Magpantay (math) who are leading epidemiological modeling. Former Ph.D. students from the QED will also be involved in the network including Frédéric Tremblay who will serve as a post doc, and Maggie Jones, who is currently an Assistant Professor at University of Victory and is leading the network’s efforts to study the disproportionate impact of infectious disease policy on indigenous populations and marginalized groups. They are joined with other researchers in epidemiology and economics from across Canada.
The prestigious grants were awarded by NSERC in partnership with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) to undertake research “modelling infectious diseases to be applied to public needs associated with emerging infectious diseases and pandemics such as COVID-19” . In a press release, the government said that “the five networks will directly support short-, medium- and long-term public health decisions by building and coordinating Canada’s national capacity”  for infectious disease modelling. The Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health, stated that “building these networks within the Canadian research community will be instrumental in preparing for future public health challenges.”
The selection of the One Society Network for grant funding comes after the network argued decision makers could not achieve their goal of truly preparing Canada for a future pandemic unless we better understand the full impacts of public health policy, including social and economic impacts, such as the effects on education, environmental, mental-health, and economic well-being in addition to understanding the impacts policy has on disease transmission and virus cases. The One Society Network will now work to develop “modelling for evaluating alternative policy responses during pandemics for all sectors of the economy and aspects of society, including marginalised groups [and…] will also be collaborating on multi-disciplinary training programs for skills development to support public policy making in future pandemics”  to help prepare Canada for the next pandemic.
For more information about the One Society Network, see: https://onesocietynetwork.ca