Apna Health in response to disproportionate COVID-19 cases in Peel’s South Asian communities

MISSISSAUGA, Ontario: Community non-profit organizations Indus Community Services (Indus), Punjab Community Health Services (PCHS) and the Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA) have partnered together to create Apna Health – a collaborative committed to the South Asian communities’ health and wellness during the pandemic and in the long term.

The latest statistics revealed from Peel Region suggest alarmingly disproportionate COVID-19 cases in Mississauga and Brampton’s South Asian community. South Asians make up approximately 32% of the population in Peel, yet constitute 59% of the positive COVID-19 cases [source]. Race and ethnicity are markers for other conditions that impact health – including socioeconomic status, access to healthcare and increased exposure to the virus due to occupation (e.g., frontline workers).

“These numbers are alarming to the South Asian community which is why the Apna Health partnership is committed to supporting those that need our help the most,” says Gurpreet Malhotra, Chief Executive Officer, Indus Community Services. “Peel’s South Asian community needs more culturally sensitive and appropriate information available in a variety of languages.” 

“One-size-fits all strategy during the pandemic has been leaving out the South Asian community as the most vulnerable population during COVID 19,” says Baldev Mutta, CEO, PCHS. “Data supports that many ethno-racial communities have been a worst hit by COVID despite of the best practices and resources available. APNA health team is a grassroots initiative taken by PCHS, CASSA and Indus in order to highlight the unique needs of the South Asian Community and play a key role in help containing the spread. We sincerely believe that there is high need of both financial as well as other wrap around services including hot-meals, isolation centres and PPE for the community.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shone light on systemic inequities which have caused disproportionately negative outcomes for South Asian (and other racialized) communities across almost all indicators of wellbeing including health and employment,” says Samya Hasan, Executive Director of CASSA. “Significant resources must be dedicated to develop health equity strategies that are community driven and culturally tailored in order to improve health outcomes for South Asians and to help them recover from this pandemic.”  

Apna Health’s kick-off campaign ‘Help is here! Know the truth! Stop the Spread!’ focuses on three pillars – prevention, resources and risk reduction. Their website, Apnahealth.org has a plethora of information and resources available in Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, Bangla, & Punjabi. They have also coordinated a community outreach program accessible through a COVID-19 Helpline 647-846-2233. The help line is equipped to provide recorded information and live intake for inquiries related to COVID-19 relief including food supplies, financial, government supports, vaccines, mental and medical support, all at zero cost.

The public awareness campaign scaled up locally on February 22 with Apna Health advertising their services across the Region of Peel via billboards, bus shelters, radio, local South Asian TV channels, and on digital platform demonstrating their collaborative to the South Asian communities’ health and wellness – during the pandemic and beyond.