UFV receives federal funding to research preventive measures in spread of diseases like COVID-19

The University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) is receiving funding from the Government of Canada for research aimed at mitigating the spread of contagious diseases like COVID-19, particularly amongst international travelers.

A team led by Dr. Cindy Jardine, UFV’s Canada Research Chair in Health and Community, will conduct research on the health information needs and gaps faced by families visiting friends and relatives (VFR) in their countries of origin.

“Containing an emerging disease, such as the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) depends on stopping the spread of the disease to other areas around the world,” she notes. “People who travel back to their countries of origin to visit friends and relatives are often at a higher risk of getting the disease and then spreading it to others. A better understanding of these travelers’ knowledge, risk perceptions, information needs, barriers to pre-travel care and advice, and access to protective measures will help us better develop strategies to keep travelers healthy.”

UFV is one of four universities in BC to receive funding announced today by the Government of Canada (news release) for COVID-19-related research.

The UFV grant, valued at $273,978 over two years, is part of a federal government investment of nearly $27 million supporting 47 research teams across Canada whose focus will be on accelerating the development, testing, and implementation of measures to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak and the outbreak of other infectious diseases.

The research will help inform clinical and public health responses, develop and evaluate diagnostic tools and vaccines, as well as create strategies to tackle misinformation, stigma, and fear.

The UFV study includes partner researchers from Australia and New Zealand, helping ensure the research and recommendations will be part of a coordinated international response and will include senior members of the BC provincial health system. The project will work in the Fraser Valley and Lower Mainland.

COVID-19 virus

The UFV team will collaborate with health authorities and community agencies in seeking information from Chinese and Punjabi travelers, international students, and family physicians, using a combination of focus groups, surveys, and interviews.

The project supports the importance of working with travelers in the Visiting Friends and Family category in collaboration with primary care health providers in understanding and taking action to prevent disease spread as well as health promotion to avoid stigma.

Other UFV researchers involved in the project include Dr. Martha Dow, head of the newly formed Health and Social Innovation Hub at UFV, and Dr. Satwinder Bains, director of UFV’s South Asian Studies Institute.

Dr. Garry Fehr, Associate Vice-President, Research, Engagement, and Graduate Studies at UFV, is pleased that UFV is being recognized as a leader in community health research.

“We are pleased the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) has endorsed the research project that draws from the strength of Cindy Jardine and UFV to bring together an interdisciplinary team of experts from within UFV, from across Canada, and internationally. Risk communication and public education programs focused on populations that travel internationally to visit friends and family will help to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses that may emerge in the future.”

Dr. Satwinder Bains

Dr. Martha Dow

This Rapid Research Funding Opportunity is a partnership between CIHR, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), Canada Research Coordinating Committee (CRCC) through the New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF), International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and Genome Canada (GC). Backgrounder available here.


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