The role of material security in improving health for people who use illicit drugs

It is well known that an adequate and secure income promotes health. However, material security (e.g., housing, food, and service access) may operate distinctly from income security, particularly for people who use illicit drugs, whose ongoing need to acquire drugs may affect the degree to which income security translates into material security and subsequent health improvements. Nevertheless, material security and its relationship with health are not well understood, an important oversight in research among people who use illicit drugs (PWUD). 

Dr. van Draanen Earwaker will seek to fill this critical gap in the research by examining the role of material security in improving health for PWUD in British Columbia through a longitudinal mixed methods study. The results of her research will generate scientific knowledge about factors that enhance material security, the impact of material security on health, and what material security means to peer workers.

This information is of relevance to the PHS Community Services Society  and other social impact employers in British Colombia, as an increasing number of these social enterprises provide opportunities for reliable income as well as access to community support and resources for PWUD. This research will include an examination of how employment through these social enterprises and harm reduction services affect material security.

Dr. van Draanen Earwaker will work with knowledge users in community-based social enterprises, like PHS, to help spread successful employment models that address material security for highly socio-economically marginalized communities. Knowledge will be shared with the community, including feedback reports for community employers, and knowledge sharing sessions aimed at peer and social impact employers. Ultimately, this work will contribute to an evidence base for designing program and policy solutions to improve health outcomes for PWUD.