Risk and Insurance Studies Centre receives $11M grant

Wildfire in the forest

Contributed by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Alliance (NSERC), the funding will go towards developing better ways of managing risk and protecting Canadians from increasing threats, such as pandemics, climate catastrophes and financial crises.

Professor Edward Furman of the Faculty of Science at York University leads the team at the Risk and Insurance Studies Centre (RISC) that will use the grant over five years for a new program called New Order of Risk Management (NORM): Theory and Applications in the Era of Systemic Risk. NORM looks to address an acute need for a fundamental transformation in how people think about and manage that risk. 

Edward Furman

“Risk management is key to promoting economic growth and improving welfare in Canada and in other Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OCED) countries by taming conventional risks, but it has not had the desired results in today’s increasingly interconnected world. In fact, some call it a failure,” says Furman. “We hope to lead a paradigm shift around what constitutes best practices and regulation for systemic risk, one that has a broader view of what risk entails and that encompasses the complexity of its systemic nature.” 

Given recent socioeconomic, demographic, technological and environmental changes, the researchers say change is overdue. 

Systemic risks, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the global financial crisis which started in 2007, often spill across socioeconomic boundaries, disproportionately impacting vulnerable populations and magnifying social inequities. The pandemic has already driven Canada’s annual deficit to $348 billion and its national debt is on target to hit $1.2 trillion, while the global financial crisis resulted in a severe recession with sharp declines in national gross domestic product. 

Climate change is creating multiple systemic risks as sea levels rise, wildfire season becomes longer with a greater potential for catastrophic fires and extreme weather events increase, such as flash flooding and storm surges, which can result in widespread devastation to coastal and inland communities in Canada and globally.  

A better understanding of systemic risk is needed, says the NORM team, which includes York Professors Jingyi Cao of the Faculty of Science, Ida Ferrara of the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, Dirk Matten of the Schulich School of Business and Shayna Rosenbaum of the Faculty of Health, as well as professors from University of British, University of Toronto, University of Waterloo and Western University. 

With their industrial collaborators, the NORM team will develop novel theories, operational tools and regulatory mechanisms to address the increasing systemic nature of risks, while also accounting for unequal susceptibility to systemic risk, pursuing equity and building resilience.  

“NORM’s impacts mean not only an academic breakthrough in how we conceptualize systemic risk, but also fundamental transformations in how we manage and govern this new type of risk more effectively through strategies that reflect and consider equity and vulnerability,” says Furman.

Systemic risk is a global threat. NORM brings exceptional depth and breadth of relevant scholarly expertise from actuarial mathematics, business, economics, psychology and statistics together with industry collaborators, including Sun Life Financial, Canada Life, CANNEX Financial Exchanges, Aviva Canada and Wawanesa Insurance, to tackles the issues. 

Learn more at News @ York.

Study shows high inflation causes stress, health inequalities


A York University-led study found that high inflation rates are leading to more stress among certain sociodemographic groups and exacerbating inequalities in health across the United States.

The study, “Assessment of sociodemographics and inflation-related stress in the US,” was published in the American Medical Association’s open access journal JAMA Network Open.

Cary Wu, professor of sociology at York University
Cary Wu

Led by Assistant Professor Cary Wu of the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, the study illustrates how high inflation has become a significant source of stress according to the study by analyzing data from the 369,328 respondents who took part in a U.S. study called the Household Pulse Survey. Among participants, 93 per cent reported an increase in prices for goods and services in their area; 47 per cent of them said the rise in prices was very stressful, 28 per cent felt moderately stressed, while 19 per cent reported feeling a little stress.

Inflation stress, however, affects various segments of the population differently. “Inflation does not affect everyone equally and can have a greater impact on people depending on their gender, race, age, marital status, education and income,” says Wu.

Analyzing the demographics of the respondents, the study found inflation is a significant source of stress for women, much more so than men, as well as those who are socioeconomically more vulnerable. Black and Hispanic people reported higher inflation stress than white people, while Asians reported lower inflation stress.

Education and income also play a role with higher levels of both being associated with lower inflation stress. Some 66 per cent of those who reported less than $25,000 in household income felt stressed, while only 17 per cent of those with a household income more than $200,000 reported feeling stress about high inflation.

After adjusting socio-economic status, the difference in stress disappeared between Blacks and whites, but Asians showed slightly higher inflation stress.

Previously married individuals who are now widowed, divorced or separated had higher levels of inflation stress than married couples. It was also found to be higher for middle-aged groups compared to those older or younger.

The demographic breakdown of respondents was 62 per cent white, 11 per cent Black, five per cent Asian and 17 per cent were Hispanic, while 51 per cent were women and 31 per cent had post-secondary education.

Although this study looked at the effects of high inflation in the U.S., research by Wu on Canadians has found similar patterns, making its impact – and the need to address the health challenges of high inflation – an important concern. “There is a need for more research and better policies to help protect against the health disparities caused by high-inflation stress that affects certain segments of the population more than others,” says Wu.

Learn more at News @ York.

Student awarded prestigious nursing award

Award stock image banner from pexels

The Council of Ontario University Programs in Nursing (COUPN) awarded Leo Macawile the Excellence in Professional Nursing Practice at the Undergraduate Level Award. He is the first York University student to receive the honour.

The award – which recognizes academic success, kind and compassionate care, and positive leadership attributes – is the latest milestone in Macawile’s notable career. In May 2022, Macawile received the York University Deschamps Compassionate Nursing Prize for demonstrating talent in his field through kindness and compassion shown toward patients. Earlier this year, he received two Calumet and Stong College awards, the Olga Cirak Alumni Bursary Award and The Virginia Rock Award, for his exceptional academic ability and outstanding commitment to the school community.

Leo Macawile
Leo Macawile

Macawile has also distinguished himself as the current president of the Nursing Student Association of YorkU (NSAY), a role which he has used to promote the art and science of nursing, but also awareness around those within the field from the Asian diaspora.

In order to celebrate Asian Heritage Month in 2022, Macawile recruited Asian nursing students and professors to showcase, through video, how Canadians of Asian heritage have contributed to nursing.

This past November, Macawile also initiated Filipino Nurses Recognition Month, Canada’s first and largest student-led initiative to recognize the challenges and structural racism that Filipino nurses and nursing students face, which contribute to the underrepresentation of Filipinos in academic and leadership roles. Over 100 diverse students, nurses and professors across Canada engaged in a month-long event of seminars.

Among additional efforts to support nursing students and ensure their success, Macawile also started a program called Walk with Prof. which connects nursing students with faculty outside the classroom in a fun, interactive, collaborative and educational manner that provided mentorship as students asked for advice and guidance.

In its reasoning for honouring Macawile with an award, COUPN wrote, “He collaborates well with others, establishing a sense of connectedness, resourcefulness, purpose and academic culture among his peers. Leo is a strong advocate for others and the overall future of the nursing profession and takes every opportunity to participate in events that celebrate nursing, leadership and community.”

Faculty of Health targets anxiety with support from Beneva

York researcher Lora Appel demonstrates a VR headset during a recent TO Health gathering

Four innovative and community-focused Faculty of Health studies will shed new light on anxiety, thanks to an investment in York University mental health researchers by Beneva, the largest mutual insurance company in Canada.

The $200,000 Anxiety Research Fund, powered by Beneva, aims to enhance assessment and treatment supports for individuals coping with anxiety – a debilitating and frequently hidden affliction experienced by one in five Canadians.

“Anxiety prevention is the main focus that guides Beneva’s social and philanthropic action nationwide,” notes Beneva President and Chief Executive Officer Jean-Francois Chalifoux. “We are proud to have teamed up with York University to create the Anxiety Research Fund, dedicated entirely to accelerating research which will have an immediate and positive impact on the community, bringing new insight and change around this important issue.”

“York’s partnership with Beneva will have lasting benefits, not only for individuals struggling with anxiety, but for society as a whole,” says Faculty of Health Dean David Peters. “Through strategic collaboration with their community partners on these projects, our researchers will ensure their findings are used to address one of the most critical mental health issues today: anxiety.”

Four projects were selected for funding through a competitive application process led by the Faculty of Health Research Office.

Exposure Therapy Using Virtual Reality
Lora Appel (image: Sophie Kirk)
Lora Appel (image: Sophie Kirk)

With her team in York’s PrescribingVRx lab, School of Health Policy & Management Professor Lora Appel is using virtual reality technology to pilot an Exposure Therapy program focused on anxiety experienced by people with epilepsy. Project participants have identified common anxiety-provoking themes, which will be recreated virtually into 360-degree videos.

After conducting randomized trials in a controlled environment at Toronto Western Hospital, the study will move into the community (recruiting through Epilepsy Toronto), where therapy can be administered in people’s homes. While the results are expected to have a direct impact on people with epilepsy, the researchers also envision applications to others who suffer from anxiety.

Retooling Black Youth Anxiety
Godfred Boateng

Headed by School of Global Health Professor Godfred Boateng, who is director, Global & Environmental Health Lab and Faculty Fellow, Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research, this project will address anxiety and mental health issues of Black youth and their families, resulting from encounters with the criminal justice system and the child welfare system.

Partnerships with the Ghana Union of Canada (GUC) and Gashanti Unity (GU) will play a critical role in implementing this project to their communities. Researchers will recruit participants, identify key needs and work with clinical professionals to provide interventions. An online resource centre and sensitization programs aimed at improving the mental well-being of Black individuals and Black families will be created.

Reducing Anxiety About HPV Tests
Catriona Buick
Catriona Buick

A School of Nursing project led by Professor Catriona Buick focuses on anxiety that is anticipated in response to upcoming revisions to Ontario’s Cervical Screening Guidelines. In other countries, anxiety has been minimized by introducing evidence-based communications with patients around Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection and cervical cancer.

The project will assess whether an infographic education intervention about primary HPV testing can decrease anxiety and increase understanding and acceptance of the upcoming changes to existing screening guidelines. The intent is to manage anxiety, dispel myths and misconceptions, normalize HPV, and improve acceptance of primary HPV testing for routine cervical cancer screening.

Decision-making in a Global Health Crisis
Shayna Rosenbaum
Shayna Rosenbaum

This project will investigate how mental health issues can interfere with people’s compliance with important public health measures – such as mask wearing and vaccination – during a global pandemic. The team, led by Department of Psychology Professor Shayna Rosenbaum, studies “delay discounting” (undervaluing or discounting future benefits when making health decisions).

The researchers will seek methods to reduce anxiety and optimize decision-making during global crises. Their findings will inform action by the Public Health Agency of Canada on the wider impact of COVID-19 and which sectors of society to target through technical briefing.

Thanks to Beneva, the Anxiety Research Fund in the Faculty of Health aims to support critical, community-focused projects to better identify, manage and help reduce the manifestations of anxiety.

York launches new Decolonizing, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy

DEDI three diverse adults in conversations

La version française suit la version anglaise. 

Dear York community,

We are excited to share York University’s first Decolonizing, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (DEDI) Strategy. York is among the first Canadian universities to incorporate decolonization in a meaningful and substantial way throughout a document of this kind, and this strategy will formalize and coordinate DEDI efforts across the institution.

The DEDI Strategy acknowledges York University’s colonial structures and recognizes that many forms of discrimination and oppression exist both in society and in higher education. It provides a lens on the University’s past, present and future, allowing it to focus clearly on the efforts and resources needed to drive positive change. The strategy includes five strategic directions – teaching and learning, research and innovation, representation and success, campus climate and environment, and leadership and capacity building.

The strategy is rooted in the University’s Academic Plan 2020-2025, which outlines York’s commitment to championing diversity and inclusivity, embracing differing perspectives, peoples, and ways of knowing, and fostering global fluencies and cross-cultural knowledges. DEDI values are also infused into other key planning documents, and the strategy augments existing frameworks, including the Framework and Action Plan on Black Inclusion and the Indigenous Framework.

A collaborative effort

This is important work requiring time and care. The launch of the new DEDI Strategy is the result of the efforts of many individuals and units over the last two-and-a-half years. This includes the 50-member President’s Advisory Council on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, which provided advice on the development of this new strategy – and the York community, who provided feedback on the Draft Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, released in March 2022. We are grateful to everyone who participated in this process including the inaugural Vice-President of Equity, People and Culture, Sheila Cote-Meek.

Taking action

While the DEDI Strategy will build on the collective efforts of many in our community, it is important to recognize that much remains to be done if we are to realize our goals. It is also a living document that will undoubtedly continue to evolve as we evaluate our progress each year. Success depends on the combined efforts of the entire York community.

We encourage everyone to read and explore the strategy on its dynamic new website.

We also invite you to join us at the launch event, Taking Action, Making Impact: A Fireside Chat on York’s DEDI Strategy, on Wednesday, May 17 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. There, you will learn how key community members are taking up the strategy in their work, explore how each of us can engage in DEDI work and imagine together how we can transform this institution to right the future for everyone.

Visit this website to learn more about the panelists and register to attend this event, in person or virtually.

Along with other key equity initiatives, this strategy and its underlying principles will empower everyone at the University to respectfully have the uncomfortable conversations that will drive collective understanding, and lead to a greater sense of inclusion and belonging  by facilitating a decolonizing, inclusive, diverse and collaborative ecosystem that promotes well-being for all.

Thank you. Merci.

Rhonda Lenton
President and Vice-Chancellor

Alice Pitt
Interim Vice-President Equity, People and Culture

York lance sa Stratégie de décolonisation, d’équité, de diversité et d’inclusion  

Chers membres de la communauté de York,

Nous nous réjouissons de diffuser la première Stratégie de décolonisation, d’équité, de diversité et d’inclusion (DEDI) de l’Université York. York est l’une des premières universités canadiennes à intégrer la décolonisation de manière substantielle dans un document de ce type, et cette stratégie formalisera et coordonnera les efforts de DEDI dans l’ensemble de l’établissement.

La Stratégie DEDI reconnaît les structures coloniales de York et admet que de nombreuses formes de discrimination et d’oppression existent tant dans la société que dans l’enseignement supérieur. Elle offre une perspective sur le passé de l’Université, sur notre présent et sur notre avenir, ce qui permet de cibler précisément les efforts et les ressources nécessaires pour susciter des changements. La stratégie comprend cinq orientations stratégiques : enseignement et apprentissage, recherche et innovation, représentation et succès, climat et environnement des campus, ainsi que leadership et renforcement des capacités.

La stratégie est ancrée dans le Plan académique de l’Université 2020-2025, qui souligne l’engagement de York à défendre la diversité et l’inclusion, à accueillir des perspectives, des personnes et des modes de connaissance différents, et à encourager des savoirs mondiaux et des connaissances interculturelles. Les valeurs de DEDI sont également intégrées dans d’autres documents de planification, et la stratégie les complète, notamment le Plan d’action sur l’inclusion des personnes noires et le Cadre stratégique autochtone.

Un effort de collaboration

Il s’agit d’un travail primordial qui demande du temps et de l’attention. Le lancement de la nouvelle Stratégie DEDI est le résultat des efforts déployés par de nombreuses personnes et unités au cours des deux dernières années et demie. Il s’agit notamment du Conseil consultatif de la présidente sur l’équité, la diversité et l’inclusion, composé de 50 membres, qui a fourni des conseils sur l’élaboration de cette nouvelle stratégie, et de la communauté de York, qui a donné son avis sur le projet de stratégie sur l’équité, la diversité et l’inclusion, publié en mars 2022. Nous remercions toutes les personnes qui ont participé à ce processus, notamment la vice-présidente inaugurale de l’équité, des personnes et de la culture, Sheila Cote-Meek.

Passer à l’action

Si la stratégie DEDI s’appuie sur les efforts collectifs de nombreux membres de notre communauté, il est important de reconnaître qu’il reste encore beaucoup à faire pour atteindre nos objectifs. Il s’agit également d’un document évolutif qui continuera sans aucun doute à se développer au fur et à mesure que nous évaluerons nos progrès chaque année. Le succès dépend des efforts combinés de l’ensemble de la communauté de York.

Nous vous encourageons à lire et à explorer la stratégie, affichée sur ce nouveau site Web dynamique.

Nous vous invitons également à vous joindre à nous lors de l’événement de lancement, « Taking Action, Making Impact: A Fireside Chat on York’s DEDI Strategy » le mercredi 17 mai, de 13 h à 14 h 30. Vous y découvrirez comment des membres clés de la communauté intègrent la stratégie dans leur travail, explorerez comment chacun d’entre nous peut s’engager dans le travail de DEDI et imaginerez comment nous pouvons transformer ensemble cette institution afin d’être présents pour l’avenir.

Visitez ce site Web pour en savoir plus sur les panélistes et inscrivez-vous pour participer à cet événement, en personne ou virtuellement.

En lien avec d’autres initiatives clés en matière d’équité, cette stratégie et ses principes sous-jacents permettront à tous les membres de l’Université d’avoir, dans le respect, les conversations difficiles qui augmenteront la compréhension collective et conduiront à un plus grand sentiment d’inclusion et d’appartenance en facilitant un écosystème décolonisant, inclusif, diversifié et collaboratif qui promeut le bien-être de toute la communauté.

Sincères salutations,  

Rhonda Lenton
Présidente et vice-chancelière

Alice Pitt
Vice-présidente intérimaire de l’équité, des personnes et de la culture

Experts discuss climate change, occupational health and safety

Featured image for stories related to sustainability

Discussions on the impact climate change poses on occupational health and safety will continue with CIFAL York‘s speaker series events running through May.

The Climate Change and Global Occupational Health and Safety speaker series, co-sponsored by York University’s Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research, will present “Climate Change and Impacts on Mental Health in Occupational Settings” on May 10 and “Climate Governance Through Global Health Diplomacy & Climate Diplomacy” on May 24.

The series, which launched with two events in April, aims to encourage dialogue and knowledge exchange on the concepts of global occupational health and safety in addressing the threats imposed by climate change. There are six webinars in total, with two more planned for June. All events are scheduled for noon to 1 p.m.

Climate change and its related mobility responses can have adverse, and sometimes beneficial, effects on health and health systems. The webinar series will explore how climate threats may also push those with the poorest health to places with fragmented access to health care, exacerbating their health needs. Health services can struggle to ensure adequate and equitable access to care for those affected, and to meet the changing needs of dynamic populations.

According to researchers, the number of both indoor and outdoor worker populations may be particularly vulnerable to climate variations (emergency responders, health care workers, fire fighters, utility workers, farmers, manufacturing workers and transportation workers). Climate conditions can amplify existing health and safety issues and could lead to new unanticipated hazards including high temperatures, air pollution, extreme weather and natural disasters, and biological hazards.

This series aims to examine the extent of the impact of climate change (e.g., climate-sensitive hazards) on human health. To address these challenges warrants an extensive, transdisciplinary approach including health, industry and government partners, say the event organizers.

“Climate Change and Impacts on Mental Health in Occupational Settings” on May 10 will feature speaker Behdin Nowrouzi-Kia, assistant professor, Department of Occupational Therapy and Occupational Science, University of Toronto; founder, Infinity Health Consulting Group; and founder, OT Services North. It will be moderated by York University Assistant Professor Godfred Boateng. Register here for this event.

“Climate Governance Through Global Health Diplomacy & Climate Diplomacy” on May 24 will feature speaker Vijay Kumar Chattu, postdoctoral fellow, ReSTORE Lab, Temerty Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto; adjunct professor, School of Public Health, University of Alberta; visiting research Fellow, United Nations University (UNU-CRIS), Bruges Belgium; and founder and CEO, Global Health Research and Innovations Canada Inc. (GHRIC), Toronto. Register here for this event.

Research shows family members of those with mental illness feel stigmatized

A woman consoling a man

Family members of those with serious mental health issues are feeling stigmatized and alone, say York University researchers in a new study.

It’s well known that those who have serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia face a great deal of stigma in society, but what has been less understood is the concept of “stigma by association” – the discrimination people close to them experience.

Joel Goldberg
Joel Goldberg

A team of York researchers looked at just that in a recent study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, and found that one in three family members of those who have serious mental illnesses experience stigma. Ahead of Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Mental Health Week, starting May 1, Joel Goldberg, lead author on the study, describes this figure as “startling” and points to the need to do more outreach.

“We wanted to reach out to a group of people who we think have been especially marginalized and one of the things that we noticed right away, is that this is a group of people who have really not been well studied. And that really speaks to how isolated they are,” says Goldberg, a York Faculty of Health professor with the Department of Psychology. “We found that family members were not receiving the social support they needed, even from other family members.”

The researchers, including York graduate researchers Suzanne McKeagAlison Rose and Heather Lumsden-Ruegg and York Psychology Professor and Canada Research Chair Gordon Flett, reached out to groups like the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario, Reconnect Community Health Services, the CMHA and The Schizophrenia Society of York and were able to connect with 120 family members who were living with relatives with severe mental health challenges.

In surveys, family members described chronic feelings of blame, failure and loneliness. Overall, the researchers found many felt stigmatized, unsupported, and that their lives don’t matter. This last main finding builds on other work by Flett, who studies mattering, which is essentially the idea that all of us need to feel like we matter, and feeling like we don’t, a concept Flett describes as anti-mattering, can lead to a host of problems.

About one per cent of the population is affected by schizophrenia, commonly characterized by auditory hallucinations (“hearing voices”), delusions, and disordered thinking that can affect daily functioning.

“Unfortunately, it’s a condition which has been really misrepresented in media portrayals. The few times when the public hears stories about people with schizophrenia, they hear about someone who hasn’t been taking their medicine, or acts of violence,” says Goldberg. “These ideas become the basis of the stigma, and families are then associated with it.”

Goldberg says that it is very probable that the numbers of family members facing stigma are actually much higher as the cohort they studied were people already connected to support groups. From a public health perspective, the study points to the need to reach out to not only those who have the illness, but also their families, who he describes as “very marginalized.”

“If you’re made to feel insignificant, if you are feeling like those around you treat you as if you’re invisible, this can have really harmful effects on your sense of well-being,” he says. “We’re hoping with this Mental Health Week that this will give great attention to family members, and let them know that we do not see their lives as being insignificant, that we don’t see them as being invisible, that their lives matter.”

Watch a video of Goldberg explain the research.

Learn more at News @ York.

Homelessness Learning Hub continues improving lives, training

Hand reaching out for help

By Alexander Huls, deputy editor, YFile

Four years after its launch, the Homelessness Learning Hub (HLHub) is evolving to continue becoming an essential resource across Canada to the homeless-serving sector.

When the HLHub launched in 2019, the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (COH) at York University had a clear vision of what it wanted the site to be.

“We’ve always been aware that the sector is quite cash strapped and often doesn’t have resources to send their staff for training,” says Stephanie Vasko, senior director of communications at COH. Because organizations often have time and money for mandatory training (such as first aid or crisis intervention), but not any additional professional development, COH wanted to create a free, self-directed online platform that brings together promising practices and training in the form of practical tools and resources.

Stephanie Vasko
Stephanie Vasko

With funding provided by the Community Capacity and Innovation funding stream of Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy, the HLHub dedicated its first two years with a clear strategy on how it would build a strong training curriculum aimed at service providers, researchers and policymakers. “We committed to developing five original self-paced trainings, or collections of resources, every year,” explains Karen Bosworth, senior instructional design specialist for the COH. “That would allow us to focus on building high-quality materials for the website, while also allowing us time to curate additional, relevant resources for the website’s library.”

The HLHub saw encouraging success out of the gate, but the team wasn’t content to rest on their laurels. Because the homeless-serving sector has frequently evolving training needs, in 2020, COH decided to assess their progress by soliciting and reviewing feedback from participants. “We felt it was an opportune time to understand what functionality on the website was working and wasn’t working. The best way to do that was listen to those who were using it.”

In doing so, it proved to direct not just the future of the site, but boost its success.

Among the surprises feedback revealed was that individuals in administrative, supervisor or human resource positions with no frontline experience were using HLHub to better understand what their staff were doing. There was another unexpected audience, too. “We learned that about half of the participants were coming from colleges. Students were being assigned our trainings as part of their coursework, which is a completely unintended audience,” says Vasko. It was a welcome sign, indicating that HLHub was helping to right the future, with students becoming equipped with the training before they enter careers in the sector.

Karen Bosworth
Karen Bosworth

Inspired by these discoveries and others, COH upgraded the HLHub website in 2021. “We really made it more true to an e-learning platform,” explains Vasko. Adds Bosworth, “We were able to create learning pathways for people, whereas before it was a lot of independent resources loosely gathered in collections.”

They integrated one click enrolment, saving of favourite resources, and progress tracking. “Another important feature – one that our audience asked for – was the ability for participants to earn certificates upon completing training. Certificates keep people motivated to complete courses,” says Bosworth.

A separate survey assessing the state of the sector, conducted by the COH research team in 2021, also highlighted an urgent need for self-care resources to address high rates of turnover and burnout in the sector. Training materials created to promote self-care are something Bosworth is especially proud of, as she ensured they would be personal and empathetic in their promotion of basic self-care (sleep, nutrition, relaxation and more) as well as tools to support emotional well-being, including lessons and activities about personal boundaries, nurturing self-compassion and deepening resilience.

The cumulative effect of these changes in 2021, as well as ongoing growth in awareness, has been significant. “Once we introduced those features, the enrolment in our trainings started to increase. We went from about 1,000 members in 2021 to now over 9,000,” says Vasko.

In 2022, HLHub also saw another form of encouraging success when it was awarded an additional $443,518 from Reaching Home, who is a partner on the project and has been using COH resources within its own community efforts. The team isn’t just grateful for the sign of continued support, but Reaching Home shares an understanding that HLHub is a long-term project.

“It’s gratifying to know that they appreciate it takes time to develop what we’re trying to do,” says Bosworth. “Now that we have a good base, we have to keep it going.”

With considerable success already achieved in its first four years, where does HLHub hope to be in the next few years? There are plans of launching a targeted digital marketing strategy, they also have high hopes for further driving awareness of HLHub’s training.

“Right now, our model is to be an open learning site so people can dip in and out wherever they find an interest or depending on their need,” says Bosworth. “We would like to create core foundational content for new hires, or different cohorts, along with a micro-credential that they could achieve. That’s where I see it going,” Vasko adds.

What’s most important, however, is the content and its audience. “Our focus on creating consistent, high-quality, free content in response to the homeless-serving sectors needs will be integral to continuing to build the reputation and awareness of the HLHub,” says Bosworth.

“Listening to our audience and their needs and developing materials in response to support them will be key to building this momentum. We have to stay current and relevant,” adds Vasko.

Celebrate Safety and Health Week through free virtual events, activities

wellbeing at work

The Health, Safety and Employee Well Being (HSEWB) unit at York University recognizes the commitment to workplace health, safety and well-being amongst faculty and staff.

Beginning Monday, May 1, faculty and staff are invited to join in celebrating Safety and Health Week, which will include an informative virtual session on community safety, a guided Qi Gong practice and an Afro dance activity.

What is Safety and Health Week?

Safety and Health Week, formerly known as North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) Week, is an international initiative focused on highlighting the importance of health and safety in all aspects of life. Since 1997, NAOSH Week events and activities have been held in Canada, the United States and Mexico with the goal of focusing the attention of all individuals on injury and illness prevention in the workplace, at home and in the community.

In 2019, to be more inclusive and to recognize the importance of expanding the goals and efforts of NAOSH Week beyond the world of occupational health and safety, the name was changed to Safety and Health Week.

The pandemic has taught us to look at health, safety and well-being in a manner we’ve never seen. We must continue to ensure that safe work remains a visible part of our daily routine. Let’s celebrate Safety and Health Week to do our part in creating safe work environments,” says Vice-President Equity, People and Culture Alice Jane Pitt.  

Summary of sessions and activities:

Visit HSEWB Safety and Health Week for additional details and to register for events. Participants may be eligible to win a prize from the York University Bookstore. Details to follow on May 1.

Dahdaleh seminar to highlight climate distress

Photo by Jon from Pexels

In recognition of Earth Month, the Dahdaleh Institute Seminar Series will present a virtual talk titled “Climate Distress: Helping Ourselves – Healing Our Planet” on April 18 from noon to 1:30 p.m.

The event will feature Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research Professor Emeritus Harvey Skinner and Community Fellow Susan Harris discussing the effect anxiety around the future of the planet has on mental and emotional well-being. A recent survey conducted by Lakehead University found that 75 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 16 and 25 say that climate change has an impact on their overall mental health. With a United Nations report issued in March 2023 suggesting that the window of opportunity may be closing to secure a more livable and sustainable future, anxiety in the future may only increase.

“Climate Distress: Helping Ourselves – Healing Our Planet” will provide an overview of the concepts and research behind climate distress, as well as practical tools for managing it. Skinner and Harris will share insights on how to foster self-care and resiliency in participants, while also discussing what can be done individually and collectively to help one’s mental health and the planet.

Promotional image for Climate Distress seminar discussion

In addition to being a professor emeritus, Skinner is an internationally recognized educator and scholar who Stanford University ranked among the top two per cent of world scientists with respect to citations and impact metrics. Skinner also co-leads the Wellness and Self-Care Lab at the Dahdaleh Institute together with his fellow presenter, Harris.

Harris has worked around issues of mental health, abuse and trauma for over 40 years, and currently teaches weekly mindfulness and compassion sessions for staff, students and community members through the Stress Busting series. She, like Skinner, is increasingly focused on cultivating mindfulness and compassion in order to meet the growing distress caused by environment disruption and climate crisis.

Find more information and register for the event here.