New report: COVID-19 packs a double whammy, hurting Canadians living with chronic disease -- and the health charities that serve them

“…The loss will be felt on all fronts - most of all on our health.”

(OTTAWA, ON): The COVID-19 pandemic is hurting Canadians — especially the 87% of Canadians who have an underlying medical condition or weak immune system. It’s also hurting the health charities they depend on for life-saving research, services and programs.

HealthPartners, a collaboration of 16 of Canada’s most trusted national health charities, highlights this two-pronged serious health threat posed by COVID-19 in its latest report released today, The Impact of COVID-19 on our Most Vulnerable Canadians.

A key finding of the report is the impact of COVID-19 on Canadians with chronic diseases or an underlying medical condition. For example, Canadians with diseases that affect their ability to breathe, such as lung disease, cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy, are at severe health risk, as COVID-19 attacks the lungs. People with Crohn’s disease and diabetes, who rely on medications that suppress their immune system, are vulnerable to contracting COVID-19. People needing to have a cancerous tumour removed are on hold indefinitely, along with those requiring diagnostic services and transplants, as hospitals and critical care services redirect their resources to COVID-19 efforts.

And that’s just one side of the equation.

HealthPartners’ report also underlines another significant impact: the inability of Canada’s health charities to engage in life-saving research and operate on-the-ground programs and services. Why? Because donations are dropping at such alarming rate that many charities cannot afford to keep staff that are essential to the front-line support their clients require. And without the ability to fundraise through community events due to social distancing measures, health charities are now operating on a shoestring.

“Chronic disease doesn’t stop during a pandemic, but donations do,” said HealthPartners CEO Eileen Dooley. “The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the ability of our charities to provide ongoing services and programs and to engage in life-saving research. These charities are a cornerstone of our health care system and they are hurting. The loss will be felt on all fronts: research, clinical work, program and service delivery, and most of all on our health.”

Many charities have laid off staff — in some cases up to 30-45%. And with a significant drop off of volunteers, family caregivers of those living with chronic disease are experiencing a much heavier burden and, as a consequence, incredible mental stress. The postponement or cancellation of essential clinical research and trials will have a long-term impact on treatments and cures.

“Cancer turns your life upside down, at the best of times. But navigating cancer during the pandemic is adding unprecedented levels of stress and anxiety for cancer patients and their caregivers,” said Andrea Seale, CEO, Canadian Cancer Society. “We are experiencing the greatest financial challenge in our 80-year history because of the impact of COVID-19 on fundraising events. April is “Daffodil Month” when we usually have almost 30,000 volunteers in the community, raising money for cancer research and support. We expect to lose $20M in donations in April alone and $80-100M through the rest of this year. Supporting charity has never been more important.”

HealthPartners has launched a fundraising appeal to help those most at risk. It has written to the Prime Minister to ask that the needs of health charities be considered a priority, and has joined with other organizations such as Health Charities Coalition of Canada and Imagine Canada in requesting help to sustain the work of charities.

To view the report, visit our website: https://healthpartners.ca/healthy-canadians/impact-covid-19-our-most-vulnerable-canadians

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For interview requests or for more information, contact:
Aline Michaud, Manager, Marketing and Communications (613) 562-1469, ext. 231 amichaud@healthpartners.ca