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Engaging community stakeholder groups in health research

Engaging community stakeholder groups in health research

Sarah Flicker

For more than a decade, Professor Sarah Flicker has been engaged with various community stakeholder groups and allied practitioners in health equity research. In line with her combined roles as York Research Chair (Tier2) in Community-Based Participatory Research and Environmental Arts and Justice Coordinator, Flicker actively extends her capacity-bridging approach with urban and rural racialized youth and women in conducting ethical community-based health research. 

Working across arts-based, qualitative and quantitative methodologies, she has undertaken various action research agendas that have substantially contributed to improving health equity.  Specifically, she works in the areas of adolescent and community development, HIV-AIDS prevention and support, teen gender-based violence prevention, as well as environmental and sexual health and justice. 

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Sarah Switzer

With PhD alumna Sarah Switzer (now with University of Toronto), they used a case study approach and photovoice to explore how stakeholders understood engagement within and across three HIV community-based organizations in Toronto, Canada. Stakeholders within the HIV community were invited to visually document what engagement, in programming and service delivery, meant to them. The results, which have implications for practice, were published in Health & Place (2020) and the community report is now available in the Picturing Participation website.  

Flicker along with Jen Gilbert of York’s Faculty of Education, Planned Parenthood of Ottawa, and the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence against Women, have also been awarded close to $1 million in funding by the Public Health Agency Canada (PHAC) to support Planned Parenthood’s project on “Preventing Teen Violence.”  This 5-year project aims to teach youth new skills focusing on enhancing awareness and developing healthy relationship to prevent gender-based violence and to avoid its immediate and long-term impacts on individuals, communities and the Canadian society. 

‘Weapons of hope’ by Chantal, one of the 63 images and narratives that came out of the HIV service delivery and programming project

Flicker is also the PI of Consent to Enter project, a public education project that mobilizes the creative authorship of peer workers from Sistering, a multi-service organization in Toronto for adult women who are affected by poverty, marginalization and social isolation. The project spotlights the experiences of women who are often left out of the public commentary due to issues of housing and income status, mental health, isolation, and racial marginalization. The goal is to increase public awareness and activate changed behaviours around problems of consent and gender-based violence. It is part of the "It's Never OK Action Plan to Stop Sexual Violence and Harassment", an initiative of the Ontario Ministry of the Status of Women, funded through Ontario Art Council's Creative Engagement Fund. 

In addition, she is a co-applicant in a $2.5 million international and interdisciplinary IDRC/SSHRC partnership project between Canadian and South African researchers on “Networks for Change and Well-Being: Girl-led from the ground-up policy making in addressing sexual violence”.  This 6-year project draws on approaches to learning 'from the ground up' by engaging youth in multi-media conversations and productions using digital storytelling, participatory video, cellphilms, drawing and mapping, community radio and social media. 

Flicker and her teams of faculty, student and community researchers have won prestigious awards for youth engagement in health research. In 2014, she became an inaugural member of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists. During the same year, she received the inaugural Research Excellence Award at the Faculty of Environmental Studies. In 2008, she received the Synapse Mentorship Award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research for her work in mentoring and motivating young Canadians in health research and helping create the next generation of Canadian health researchers and scientists.  She was an Ontario HIV Treatment Network Scholar from 2006-2011 and a youth and social determinants of sexual health research leader from the Centre for Urban Health Initiatives from 2008-2010. 

A prolific scholar, Flicker has profoundly published in the areas of urban health, youth health, HIV/AIDS, health promotion, ethics, social determinants of health, and community-based participatory methodologies. Most of her research articles have been co-authored with her students and community partners demonstrating her commitment to mentoring and facilitating community-campus collaboration and research partnerships. Further, her works have garnered significant media attention from major news outlets such as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Globe and Mail, and Ottawa Citizen, among others. Most importantly, her research has informed policy at the municipal (Toronto Public Health), provincial (Ontario sex education curriculum) and federal levels (Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). 

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