Ongoing Project:

Covid-19 and Refugee Families in Montreal: Strategies for Reaching Hard-to-reach Populations in Health Emergencies

Researchers: Nicole Ives1, Jill Hanley1, Marjorie Rabiau1, Paula Kline2, and Janet Cleveland1
Affiliation: McGill University1 and Montreal City Mission2
Research Partner: Montreal City Mission
Keywords: Syrian refugees, integration, health, public health information, public health messaging, social isolation, Covid-19, phone surveys, Québec


Objective: This study builds on the Québec segment of a CIHR-funded 4-year longitudinal study: Syrian Refugee Integration and Long-Term Health (SyRIA.lth), which explores the impact of pre- and post-migration conditions, sociodemographic characteristics, and migration pathway on integration trajectories and long-term health and mental health outcomes for Syrian refugees. . Drawing on the research assistants and participants from SyRIA.lth, this study examines how public health messaging is impacting refugee families in the Montreal region.

Justification: Data collection for SyRIA.lth has been temporarily suspended due to Covid-19. This presents an opportunity to engage participants from that study to gain valuable insight into how factors such as language fluency, education, social networks, family make-up, employment status, housing circumstance, and income relate to well-being during a public health crisis.

Practical goal: To further our understanding of how pre- and post-migration conditions, sociodemographic characterises and migration pathways of Syrian refugees relate to their accessing, understanding, and sharing information; understanding barriers to social distancing and isolation; and accessing health care during Covid-19. This study aims to assess which current public health information strategies are most effective with which segments of the population and which current information messages are most clearly understood, as well as proposing strategies to ameliorate gaps in the strategies for Covid-19 response in newcomer communities. While data will be collected in the short term, researchers are also interested in longer term outcomes of COVID-19 on integration, linking back to the SyRIA.lth study.

Primary audience: government, health providers, service providers, and refugee families


This study will employ a two-part multimethod approach that includes a) a phone survey with refugee who have been a part of SyRIA.lth and b) key informant interviews with community leaders, settlement works, primary health care providers, and administrators to provide contextualization of local conditions and strategies. For the phone survey, the research team will contact each of the households in the Quebec cohort by phone or WhatsApp; they will survey one household member in Arabic (n = 267) and 30 Syrian refugees from the Montreal City Mission community. For the SyRIA.lth sample, researchers will ask permission to link their responses to their existing household information in the database, including housing conditions, highest education level, language fluency and income. All participants contacted will receive information about multilingual government sources, regardless of whether they agree to participate.

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