Courageous Conversations: The pandemic’s impact on health equity, mental health and well-being in our communities

By Jon Rumley, Walmart Canada Corporate Affairs

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues across Canada and around the world, its impacts are being felt more so now than ever before, according to experts who joined a panel hosted by Walmart Canada.

They say the situation is especially dire in health care where the Omicron variant is wreaking havoc on hospitals and creating staff shortages that are impacting care for Canadians.

Things have become so serious that one of the panellists invited to Walmart Canada’s conversation on the topic — Dionne Sinclair, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s Vice-President of Clinical Care and Chief Nurse Executive — wasn’t able to attend because she was needed to help patients.

Walmart Canada hosted a panel discussion Wednesday to explore how our communities make decisions about health equity, mental health and well-being during this unprecedented time as part of the retailer’s Brave and Courageous Conversation series for Walmart associates. The discussion was streamed on LinkedIn Live.

“Our front-line workers are extremely impacted,” said Ingrid Wilson, Walmart Canada’s Senior Director of Culture, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, who was one of the panellists for the conversation. “They didn’t know they were going into a war and they’ve stayed the course.”

The 90-minute conversation was moderated by wellness entrepreneur and podcast host Che Marville and included Dr. Praseedha Janakiram, Staff Physician at Crossroads Refugee Clinic at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, and Jamilah Zuzarte, Walmart Canada's Senior Manager of Associate Well-being.

The pandemic has strained the health-care system, which has trickle-down effects on the rest of society, including our most vulnerable with limited access to care, housing and economic stability, Dr. Janakiram explains.

“There is absolutely no question in my mind that everyone is grieving,” Dr. Janakiram said. “What has changed is, I think, is an understanding of how much more we can do to improve access and availability and how many more mediums we can work with now, which is something that has come out of necessity in these times.”

I think it’s important to recognize that health inequities exist.
Jamilah Zuzarte, Walmart Canada

Nearly two years into this pandemic, the need to do more to support people has never been greater, Jamilah says. That’s why mental health and well-being has become such important pillars for Walmart Canada, especially in the face of COVID fatigue and burnout among associates.

“It’s not all about work — we have to realize where we’re at right now,” Jamilah said. “We have to be flexible when we’re looking at individuals,” she continued.

“Sometimes we need to pivot and shift and look at those populations that need extra help and an extra hand,” Jamilah said, adding there’s a need to look at the “whole person” when addressing issues. “I think it’s important to recognize that health inequities exist.”

There’s one thing that’s clear after 22 months: The pandemic has changed us, Che says.

For more information about this discussion, click the link above for the full conversation.