This award is co-funded by Health Research BC, through CIHR’s Operating Grant: Understanding and mitigating the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on children, youth and families in Canada.
The COVID-19 pandemic and its corresponding health, social, and economic implications present potential lasting consequences for inequalities and vulnerabilities to manifest across later phases of the life course — a trend that may have significant impacts for adolescents aged 15-19. For example, school closures and other public health measures (e.g. isolation) have had significant effects on adolescent health — an age group whose need for social engagement and connection are essential for development. However, little is known about how social, economic, and cultural changes related to COVID-19 will affect adolescents’ health and social well-being over time.
To fill this knowledge gap, Dr. Rod Knight (principal investigator, assistant professor, UBC Department of Medicine) and Dr. Marie Jauffret-Roustide (co-principal investigator, research scientist, INSERM, University of Paris) are launching an international research study to extend their CIHR-funded France-Canada Observatory on COVID-19, Youth Health, and Social-wellbeing (FOCUS) – a research program launched in June 2020 to evaluate the impact of COVID-19 on youth aged 19-29 living in Canada and France – to include adolescents aged 15-19.
The FOCUS on Adolescents project will work alongside a group of adolescents from Canada and France to adapt the FOCUS Study’s program of research to include adolescents in a series of annual interviews and bi-annual national online surveys. At the end of the study, a participatory summit will be held in each country with youth and key stakeholders working with adolescents (e.g. clinicians, community members, policy makers) to identify interventions that best address the social and health needs of adolescents.
This research project will provide policy makers and clinicians with high-quality, real-time evidence to inform COVID-19 public health responses to improve health outcomes and reduce health inequities among adolescents.
One of the first objectives of our research project was to prepare and obtain ethic approvals from all of our university partners in Canada and France to ensure that our proposed research activities with adolescents and young adults will be completed in accordance with Canadian and French institutional ethics requirements. This was a long process, as the procedures and components of each application varied according to each ethics committee. In February 2023, we successfully received ethic approvals to start our data collection activities in Canada and France. In the meantime, we have developed new research partnerships with community organizations that provide health and social services to adolescents and young adults in Canada and France. These partnerships represent key resources and supports to best adapt and design our research activities for adolescents. For example, we held a series of virtual and in-person meetings with community organizations to discuss the content of our online questionnaire and identify a set of strategies to promote the online survey to adolescents and young adults in Canada and France.
Using the data collected from the previous FOCUS online surveys conducted in 2020 and 2021 among young adults in Canada and France, we have published two research articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals that provide findings on the changes in alcohol use and the effects of financial support on the mental health among young adults who lost income during the pandemic. These research findings and other ongoing data analyses related to the FOCUS survey have been presented at international conferences and to our community partners as part of our knowledge mobilization activities. These activities allowed us to engage in constructive discussions with health providers and peer workers from community organizations about the influence of the determinants of health on youth health and social wellbeing. These discussions also helped us to best tailor our data collection and analysis plans of the forthcoming FOCUS 2023 survey, which will include adolescents. For example, specific data analyses have been planned to inform community organizations about the health needs and concerns of adolescents and young adults in the current post-pandemic context.
Throughout our research project, we will continue to engage with community organizations and FOCUS youth participants to collaborate on the preparation of scientific articles. In order to accelerate the availability of our research findings, we will also develop a set of scholarly and policy-oriented deliverables, including those designed for key decision-makers (e.g., government officials), as well as brief summaries of evidence, which we will promote through media engagement (e.g., media interviews, posts on social media platforms). For example, our research findings will be shared with our existing research networks, including collaborations with key governmental agencies and influential decision makers within Canada and France, in the aim of using new research to optimize the responses to social and health inequities experienced by adolescents and youth.
This spring, we will launch the FOCUS 2023 online survey among adolescents and young adults living in Canada and France. To promote this survey, we will use different recruitment strategies such as sending email invitation to participants of the previous FOCUS surveys, posting articles on our research partners’ websites and newsletters, and launching a social media advertising campaign to recruit new survey participants. Once the online survey is complete, we will analyze the survey data with statisticians and in
consultation with researchers who have expertise working on adolescents and youth studies. Our community partners will also be involved in this data analysis process through virtual and in-person meetings. We will continue to conduct knowledge mobilization activities by organizing two workshops (one in Canada and one in France) that will bring together FOCUS youth participants, researchers, and key stakeholders in the area of adolescent health (e.g., services providers, policy makers, and community members) to identify strategies to improve adolescent health in Canada and France. Our research team also just received one year of bridge funding from CIHR’s Project Grant Pandemic Preparedness and Health Emergencies Research Priority Announcement stream to extend this work.