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UBC researchers asking for public's input in COVID-19 policy

Have your say on next steps

University of British Columbia (UBC) researchers are asking for the public's input to help shape COVID-19 public policy going forward.

A research team will seek input from hundreds of residents in an upcoming online deliberation series, to bring the public's voice into the next phase of COVID-19 public policy planning. 

“As governments begin easing restrictions on social distancing and business closures imposed as a result of the global pandemic, it’s critical that decision-makers understand public perception of COVID-19 policies. That’s why we launched our online deliberation Public Input into Pandemic Planning,” says Kim McGrail, professor of population and public health and director of research at UBC Health.

Research results will be made available to decision-makers and the Canadian public, said McGrail.

She says the first topic up for discussion is the potential benefits and drawbacks of contact tracing apps. 

“Deliberation is foundational to our democratic process and public input into BC’s evolving COVID-19 response is essential. If governments are to make sound policy decisions that garner broad public support, they need public input. In this unprecedented era of global pandemic, public engagement in policy making is more important than ever.”

The team has shifted their model of deliberative engagement online in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, embracing video conferencing technology as part of the process, says team member Michael Burgess, professor of ethics and Associate Provost, Strategy at UBC Okanagan.

“We knew it was important to get public input on the next phase of the pandemic response in BC because it will have a profound impact on people’s lives, and we knew we needed to do it quickly. But we also had to follow the physical distancing protocol recommended by the Public Health Officer. That meant rapidly adapting our deliberative method and moving online.”

The move to online could bring challenges of accessibility of diversity, says Burgess, but the team has done their best to address these challenges by reaching out to community groups and encouraging them to host their own sessions. 

“Some people might lack technical skill or comfort with expressing their view online or publicly; others might not have a device or an internet connection, which could exclude people based on age, income or ability.

“We carefully designed this deliberation so we can use it over and over again in different places and with different questions. We hope this will be the first of many deliberative public engagements that provide input to pandemic policy.”

To volunteer to participate in an online deliberation session, visit the website and register by Friday, May 22. 

Community groups can access all the materials needed to run a deliberation from home by downloading a Community Conversation Kit via the website



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