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Established by the President of the Royal Society of Canada in April 2020, the RSC Task Force on COVID-19 was mandated to provide evidence-informed perspectives on major societal challenges in response to and recovery from COVID-19. 

The Task Force established a series of Working Groups to rapidly develop Policy Briefings, with the objective of supporting policy makers with evidence to inform their decisions. 

Full Report

Executive Summary

Overview of “The Humanities and Health Policy”

COVID-19 was a stark reminder that understanding a novel pathogen is essential but insufficient to protect us from disease. Biomedical and technical solutions are necessary, but they do not prevent or resolve misinformation, vaccine hesitancy, or resistance to public health measures, nor are they sufficient to advance the development of more equitable and effective healthcare systems. 

Responding to crises such as pandemics requires deep collaboration drawing on multiple methodologies and perspectives. Along with the science, it is imperative to understand cultures, values, languages, histories, and other determinants of human behaviour. In this policy briefing we argue that the Humanities – a group of methodologically diverse fields, including interdisciplinary studies that overlap significantly with the social determinants of health – are an underused source of cultural and social insight that is increasingly important and could be better leveraged in such collaboration. 

Authors of the Report

Sean M. Bagshaw, Chair and Professor, Department of Critical Care Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Alberta and Alberta Health Services 

Erika Dyck, Professor and Canada Research Chair in the History of Health and Social Justice, Department of History, University of Saskatchewan 

Maya J. Goldenberg, Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Guelph 

Bev Holmes, President and CEO, Michael Smith Health Research BC 

Esyllt Jones (Co-Chair), FRSC, Professor, Department of History, University of Manitoba 

Julia M. Wright (Co-Chair), FRSC, George Munro Chair in Literature and Rhetoric, Department of English, Dalhousie University 

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