Throughout the pandemic, a volunteer team of young Canadians began leveraging social media to share public health messages. At first, Samanta Krishnapillai was posting on her personal Instagram. By June she launched ON COVID-19 Project to do more of this work. Today the team has grown to 130 volunteers and they have garnered an Instagram audience over 10,000 followers. The group contextualizes official updates for millennial and Gen Z audiences navigating the pandemic. For months, they have been offering guidance to groups that are less visible in general messaging. This includes students, young parents and entry-level employees to name a few. To learn more, CJRU speaks with Krishnapillai about the platform’s impact and their recent name change to On Canada Project.
“Part of the reason I started the project was because I kept thinking that people were being left out of the conversation. And it really messes with you when you don’t see yourself in the official narrative… it made me really upset because it’s alienating … That’s an impossible task to expect people to interpret official guidelines and use them in their day to day life without giving them a full on package on how to do that. That felt fundamentally unacceptable to me,” Krishnapillai explains
Moving forward, information on social determinants of health and the Canadian health care system will accompany COVID-19 content. Krishnapillai says this was a natural progression for the On Canada Project. She notes that their informative social media posts will still have a conversational tone and a critical lens. As they incorporate carve out space for conversations beyond COVID-19, it’ll paint a better picture of the country.
“It became evident that we couldn’t talk about COVID-19 in isolation … There are so many other social inequalities and inequities in our society that have been deepened by the pandemic,” she says.
In conversation with CJRU, Krishnapillai uses the example of COVID-19 outbreaks in prisons and shelters. She notes that a basic understanding of these institutions have to be acknowledged before addressing the presence of COVID-19. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines social determinants of health as non-medical factors that influence health outcomes. They state that in countries at all levels of income, health and illness follow a social gradient. The lower the socioeconomic position, the worse the health. Social determinants of health is one topic that the On Canada Project will be exploring more.
By incorporating these systemic conversations with a Canadian lens, Krishnapillai hopes to spark more civic engagement within her community. When it comes to health care or the the prison system, she is tired of hearing Canadians say they’re better than Americans. By transitioning from ON COVID-19 to the On Canada Project she hopes to shed light on the state of Canada as a whole and not just COVID-19. Ultimately, the On Canada Project believes that an informed demographic is a mobilized demographic.