CAAT started the 2012 summer season by organizing a research think tank on HIV and Immigration that focus on the priority concerns of newcomer and racialized communities in Canada. The full-day session was held on May 29th at the Ramada Hotel in downtown Toronto. The event attracted over 40 participants from health, legal, policy, social service, academic institutions, AIDS service organisations, people living with HIV/AIDS and other community leaders from across the GTA.
The objectives of the research think tank were to: 1) share knowledge and information on research on HIV and immigration and newcomer communities in Canada; 2) identify gaps/or evidence of needs and priorities among newcomer communities; and 3) facilitate opportunities for dialogue among community-campus partners with common interests around newcomer communities.
A day earlier, on 28th May, CAAT organized a research capacity building workshop for PHAs titled “Getting Research to Work for Us!”. The research workshop provided useful framework and skills to facilitate community members to translate their needs and concerns into researchable questions. The workshop was co-facilitated by Professor Eleanor Maticka-Tyndale of the University of Windsor, who is also a member for CAAT’s CHAMP study research team; and Dr. Darrell Tan, an Infectious disease specialist and research scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital. Dr. Alan Li of Regent Park Community Health Centre moderated the workshop.
Prior to the think tank, community members and stakeholders were asked to send in their ideas of priority issues related to HIV and immigration that need research attention. The concerns were grouped under three areas: health care concerns, service access issues and policy issues. Survey results were presented at the think tank along with a quick updated scan of existing research projects amongst ethno-racial and newcomer communities in Canada. This provides important background information for group discussion and was supplemented by input from the participants. Key themes emerged from the survey and group brainstorming discussions were prioritized by the participants who then worked in small groups to translate them into list of specific research questions. Over lunch, Jennifer Major of the Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN) provided an overview of the funding resources available for supporting community campus research partnership projects from OHTN and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR).
After a whole afternoon of intensive small group work and reflective discussion, four key research projects were identified for further development. These include projects that focus on: (a) the inter-linkages amongst mental health, substance use and HIV amongst racilaized and newcomer communities; (b) the health needs of long term survivors of HIV from ethno-racial communities; (c) identifying effective models of service navigation and coordination to meet the complex health-& social services needed of newcomer PHAs; and (d) tracking the impact of changes in Bill C-31 health care coverage cutbacks on refugee PHAs.
CAAT research team and Steering Committee will be following up with the team members to further clarify the objectives and methodology of these projects, and identify additional collaborating partners. After a full day of hard work, participants left the room a little tired but everyone was also expressing how excited, energized and inspired they all felt by the incredible team efforts that worked so efficiently and effectively in building a clear vision of community driven research agenda to move forward.