Skip to main content

COVID-19 vulnerable populations

Acknowledging that Vancouver’s most vulnerable population has been grappling with an ongoing overdose crisis since 2016 and is now burdened by the COVID-19 pandemic, Vancouver Coastal Health, in partnership with the B.C. Ministry of Health and BC Centre for Substance Use (BCCSU), responded to address the risk of COVID-19 transmission among the Downtown Eastside population. In response to the dual public health emergencies, the Vancouver Coastal Health COVID-19 response team was seeking strategic communications and design support in developing resources around safe supply management, overdose, and shelters on the Downtown Eastside. For individuals living with severe substance use disorders, there is a potential for increased transmission of COVID-19 if they are unable to self-quarantine due to withdrawal or other substance-use related issues. Vancouver Coastal Health needed support in developing informational resources around the prescription and management of substances, for use by doctors, clinics, pharmacists, housing support workers, clients, and the general public, as well as resources about testing, overdose response, and shelter referral pathways. These materials provide information to people with substance use disorders, health care providers, and support workers regarding health and safety measures in the case of substance use and associated challenges such as overdose.


Be the Change Group assembled a dedicated, on-call team to develop a communications plan, and edit and design the appropriate documents, which included clinical and prescriber workflow charts, a brochure/poster, and a number of one- and two-page documents for both digital and print distribution. We rapidly developed assets as needed, reviewing all background materials with the Vancouver Coastal Health team and our in-house clinician, conducting multiple rounds of edits, and designing in formats that would allow the client team and their staff to edit/update documents at will.




      The Change

      In the setting of dual public health emergencies, we recognize that health care teams, from frontline health care teams to management and operations teams to communications teams, are working around the clock to keep our communities safe. By supporting Vancouver Coastal Health in the development of rapid communications and facilitating the early dissemination of guidelines, we assisted health care workers and the community in the support of Vancouver’s vulnerable population during this pandemic. By helping to develop accessible and accurate life-saving information, we contributed to timely communications that serve a broad base of individuals all working hard to protect public health.



      Working with the Vancouver Coastal Health team, and guided by the BC Centre for Substance Use Risk Mitigation in the Context of Dual Public Health Emergencies Guidelines, our team developed a safe supply communications plan, a prescriber guideline and clinical workflow document, and a pharmacy guideline document.


      Responding to overdose during COVID-19

      Working with the VCH team, we copyedited and designed easy to use, accessible resources to support the inner city community to respond to overdose in a safe and compassionate way.


      Shelter referral workflows

      Ensuring that inner city residents have safe shelter in which to self-isolate and stop the spread or COVID-19 and feel safe during the pandemic is a complex issue. As Vancouver Coastal Health rapidly responded to this issue, we worked iteratively with its team to copyedit and designed easy-to-use, accessible resources and visual workflows to support the inner city community response and refer to appropriate housing.


      Personal protective coveralls

      To support the health and safety of health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, Vancouver Coastal Health required a clear, detailed, and comprehensive resource on how to don and doff coveralls and personal protective equipment (PPE). Working closely with the client team, we custom designed, edited, and illustrated this asset for use in health care settings.