York researchers receive $1.1 million in COVID-19 research funding

Three York University researchers will receive more than $1.1 million in COVID-19 rapid research funding over two years to explore issues of trust, stigmatization and social perceptions of risk, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) announced Friday.

The results from these Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies research projects could affect the response to and management of COVID-19 now and similar outbreaks of disease in the future.

Image: CDC

An image of the COVID-19 virus. Image: CDC

Assistant Professor Aaida Mamuji, coordinator of the Disaster and Emergency Management (DEM) Program at York, will receive $499,121 to examine how Chinese diaspora communities in globalized urban centres are coping with COVID-19. Assistant Professor Eric Kennedy of the DEM program will receive $428,816 to track how Canadians understand and perceive the outbreak, while Assistant Professor of sociology Cary Wu will receive $176,256 to study issues of trust and how it hampers prevention and control measures.

“York University is delighted to learn of CIHR’s support for three timely projects from the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies,” said Interim Vice-President Research & Innovation Rui Wang. “This exemplifies York’s leadership in public health response to COVID-19 and its impact. With this funding, York will provide essential insights in the rapid research response to contribute to the global effort to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.”

As the frequency of disease outbreaks increases in a connected world with rapid urbanization, there is a need to understand how public fears, stigmatization and attitudes, along with misinformation, affect public health efforts.

“LA&PS has always been about producing research that has real and immediate impact in the world, and we are incredibly proud of the work of our DEM and sociology researchers in their respective fields – especially as it concerns public issues as timely as the recent COVID-19 outbreak,” said the Dean of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies J.J. McMurtry.

More about the projects

Aaida Mamuji

Aaida Mamuji

Mamuji’s project aims to understand the consequences of COVID-19 as experienced by Chinese communities in Toronto and Nairobi, including the social impacts of discrimination and Sinophobia on personal well-being and livelihoods. Her team, which includes Associate Professor Jack Rozdilsky of the DEM program, plans to work with emergency management professionals in both locations to develop a culturally specific public education campaign and knowledge-sharing events to counter misinformation, disinformation, stigma and fear, and to promote community cohesion.

Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy

Kennedy’s project, which will include Associate Professor Claudia Chaufan of York’s Faculty of Health and Associate Professor Kieran O’Doherty of the University of Guelph, will mount a large-scale, two-year coast-to-coast survey to document how Canadians understand the outbreak. It will explore who Canadians trust for information on COVID-19, how they’re adapting their behaviours, and how their perceptions of risk changes throughout the next couple of years. To participate, people can sign up to be notified (cemppr.lab.yorku.ca) when the survey is released.

Cary Wu

Cary Wu

Wu's research will bring frontline researchers from China together with experts in trust and public health in Canada and Sweden to explore people’s trust in government, health agencies, and in other people and groups during a time of crisis. He will look at how their level of trust shapes public responses to COVID-19, such as compliance with control policies and methods of prevention, but also, how disease outbreaks affect those levels of trust and can lead to a rise in xenophobia.

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