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June 3, 2021

Fraser Centre Impact Story: Patient Partners play critical role in research project mapping COVID-19 risks in BC

As COVID-19 cases continue to persist in British Columbia, health systems and decision-makers can benefit from having an understanding of the geographic areas in the province that are more at risk and more vulnerable to COVID-19 transmission.

A multidisciplinary team of researchers in BC, led by Dr. Valorie Crooks at Simon Fraser University, have developed maps to illustrate risks and vulnerabilities related to COVID-19 infections and care access across the province. These maps, which to date, demonstrate personal risks, place-based risks, and overall vulnerability to risks, add valuable insights into where (the particular communities), policy and public health efforts and resources should be focused to manage COVID-19 in BC. This project has been highlighted in the media (Vancouver Sun, Global News, and Radio Canada) because of both its novel application to facilitate real-time decision-making based on emerging evidence and its ease of  understandability to identify areas of higher vulnerability. 

Understanding the value of community voices in shaping these maps, Dr. Crooks requested support from the Fraser Centre to facilitate patient engagement (PE). 

Fraser Centre’s Patient Engagement Specialist, Bev Pomeroy, met with the research team to better understand their objectives for patient partner involvement. Fraser Centre recruited for patient partners through (1) REACH BC, an online platform that connects the public and patients with research opportunities, and (2) a Patients Interested in Research Group at Fraser Health, made up of 30 involved patient partners who advise on matters related to PE in research. Fraser Centre also provided support in budgeting for PE activities, including designing a PE Budget Template resource that built in funding to support a research liaison and to facilitate co-creation of Knowledge Translation materials.

Out of 12 interested patient partners, Fraser Centre identified two patient partners who would be a good fit for this team before facilitating meet-and-greet sessions with the researchers.

In August 2020, Paul Burgener and Kristie Nicol joined the research team as eager and experienced patient partners. Kristie also had prior experience with mapping projects and geographical information systems. Ultimately, the input from Paul and Kristie played a vital role in shaping the accessibility and understandability of these maps for the public eye. By identifying inaccessible jargon and technical language and suggesting questions that needed to be answered by the research team, this project was better able to reflect the needs of the public.

This team received a MSFHR COVID-19 Research Response Fund. Fraser Centre additionally brokered an additional fund for patient honoraria with the BC SUPPORT Unit. Fraser Centre partners with Fraser Health and Simon Fraser University to advance patient-oriented research across the Fraser-Salish region. We are available to provide supports in patient-oriented research methods, including patient engagement, research navigation, and knowledge translation. To learn more about our services, or our PE Budget Template, contact us at