The Emerging Infectious Diseases Modelling Initiative (EIDM) – by the Public Health Agency of Canada and NSERC – aims to establish multi-disciplinary network(s) of specialists across the country in modelling infectious diseases to be applied to public needs associated with emerging infectious diseases and pandemics such as COVID-19. [1]




“Emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) are a key public health threat, which we are currently experiencing with COVID-19. EIDs are, for the most part, infectious diseases of animals that have, or evolve, the capacity to infect humans (these are called zoonoses), and can sometimes be transmitted human-to-human without need for animals to be involved in transmission. Zoonoses that acquire the capacity for efficient human-to-human transmission are those most likely to spread in the human population and cause pandemics such as COVID-19. The interaction of animals, the environment and humans in the emergence and spread of EIDs means that understanding EIDs to support risk assessment, prevention and control requires a One Health approach, i.e. one that considers the interactions amongst animals, humans and the environment. [2]

In the context of public health, modelling can recreate the essential components of pathogen transmission cycles from our understanding of the biology of the pathogens and their interactions with their hosts. Models can help public health leaders and organizations understand where and when infectious diseases may emerge or re-emerge, and they can be used to explore the best methods or combinations of methods to control disease outbreaks or epidemics and protect the health of Canadians.

In responding to the COVID-19 epidemic, mathematical modelling has proven to be an essential tool for researchers and policy advisors to simulate the impact of various interventions or public health strategies, and to provide quantitative predictions of how interventions might affect population health in the future. A wide range of actors in Canada (including: federal, provincial, territorial (FPT) and municipal governments, local public health units and organizations, research organizations and universities, and others) are developing models to help inform and guide responses to public health threats such as COVID-19. The COVID-19 epidemic has reinforced the crucial role of modelling and has underscored a need for greater and ongoing capacity to implement and validate a full range of modelling tools required to support decision-making on public health measures and to support the response to epidemics and outbreaks.

At the federal level, since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has identified several opportunities related to improving the capacity and coordination of infectious disease data modelling, a core component of disease surveillance. Through the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become clear that Canada would benefit from

  • additional skilled modelling experts,
  • improved coordination of experts and stakeholders to support the identification of priority issues and strategic directions,
  • improved mobilization and collaboration among experts to accelerate research and advance potential solutions.

Addressing these gaps will improve Canada’s preparedness in the face of public health emergencies, such as pandemics.

The PHAC and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) are working together to strengthen collaborative efforts among the academic community and all relevant stakeholders to conduct and coordinate infectious diseases modelling to better respond to COVID-19 and other similar situations.” [2]

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