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COVID-19 intensified struggles for Edmonton’s ethnic communities, study finds

August 13, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic intensified existing struggles for ethnic communities in Edmonton, a new study shows.

Researchers at the University of Alberta and the Multicultural Health Brokers Cooperative in Edmonton collected 773 stories from immigrant and refugee families of diverse cultural backgrounds.

The Illuminate Project saw 21 peer researchers gather accounts from local communities between September and December 2020.

The report, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal this week, found COVID-19 made quality of life difficult in relation to finances, food, housing, child care, chronic illnesses besides COVID-19 and language barriers for accessing information.

Researchers came from a variety of ethnic backgrounds — Somali, Syrian, Iraqi, Chinese, Filipino, Bhutanese, Nigerian — and worked with University of Alberta co-lead researcher, Denise Campbell-Scherer.

Campbell-Scherer, also a professor of family medicine, said the data compiled into the study showed struggles they didn’t anticipate.

“We started seeing real problems with youth, real crises with some different situations with youth. We hadn’t predicted that,” Campbell-Scherer said. She said seniors also dealt with isolation and a lack of access to technology.

The researchers noticed several areas of emerging crisis: chronic and serious illnesses other than COVID-19, maternal care, mental health, triggers of past trauma, financial insecurity and legal concerns.

‘People were going into crisis’

Funke Olokude, a program evaluation and research coordinator at the MHBC, said when COVID-19 hit, she started getting calls at all hours.

“I was getting calls at midnight, at 3 a.m. And people were going into crisis and people were trying to figure all of this and make sense of all of this.”

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