SSHRC-funded researchers addressing important societal aspects of COVID-19 pandemic

April 7, 2020

Infectious disease outbreaks affect the lives of people, families and communities. COVID-19 is no exception. There is an unprecedented level of cooperation across the international research community, research funders and public health institutions as all look for novel solutions, from new vaccines to more effective communication about the pandemic. Canadian researchers are actively engaged in this global effort.

In recent weeks, the Government of Canada announced an investment of more than $275 million in funding for research on measures to combat COVID-19. Of this investment, $27 million was allocated to research through the three federal research funding agencies―the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and SSHRC―the Canada Research Coordinating Committee, through the New Frontiers in Research Fund,the International Development Research Centre and Genome Canada. 

SSHRC has contributed nearly $900,000 to the Canadian effort, supporting two social sciences researchers –  Eric Kennedy of York University and Myles Leslie of the University of Calgary.

Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy, assistant professor of Disaster and Emergency Management, York University

Understanding Social Perceptions of Risk, Information Sources, Trust and Public Engagement Related to the COVID-19 Outbreak

Following the rapid spread of COVID-19, there is a need to explore how Canadians face and understand the social dimensions of the outbreak. This is a critical time to understand how these phenomena operate, to trace how they affect our public attitudes, fears and beliefs, and to identify how communication by government officials and public health experts can help minimize community panic and stigmatization.

Over the next two years, Eric Kennedy and his team, including Associate Professor Claudia Chaufan of York University  and Associate Professor Kieran O’Doherty of the University of Guelph, will carry out a cross-Canada survey to document how Canadians understand the outbreak. Who do they trust for information? How are they adapting their behaviours? Is their perception of risk changing? The research will help better understand the social dimensions of the COVID-19 outbreak and inform response efforts. Kennedy is also building a survey aggregator to help identify, track, and compare the wide range of ongoing research related to COVID-19 in Canada and around the world. The team is inviting practitioners and international researchers to participate in this project.

Myles Leslie

Myles Leslie, assistant professor in Health and Social Policy, University of Calgary

Policy Implementation and Communication Lessons from Alberta's Acute and Primary Care Environments During the COVID-19 Response

Professor Myles Leslie, associate director of research at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy, and his team are assessing how COVID-19 preparedness and response policies are being transmitted to, and implemented in  hospital and family health centres in Alberta. Through interviews with public health workers and site visits with front-line clinicians, the team will better understand how policies, protocols, priorities and communication channels are functioning. Given the invaluable role played by healthcare workers during global health emergencies such as COVID-19, Leslie and his team will help identify opportunities for improving response efforts in real time―and for future public health emergencies.

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