Seminar Series

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CH&E Seminar Series 2022-2023


Date & Time:
Monday, September 12, 2022 at 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm

Dr. Alexa Yakubovich

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Topic: Adapting systems responses to violence against women during the COVID-19 pandemic: results from Toronto and next steps for Ontario and the Maritimes

Biography: Dr. Alexa Yakubovich is an Assistant Professor in Community Health and Epidemiology at Dalhousie University (cross-appointed in Gender and Women’s Studies) and Affiliate Scientist with Nova Scotia Health and the MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions at St Michael’s Hospital. She received her PhD in Evidence-Based Social Intervention from the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and completed her postdoctoral fellowship, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), at the University of Toronto and St. Michael’s Hospital. Dr. Yakubovich’s mixed-methods research program includes investigations of the social and structural determinants of violence against women and the design and evaluation of interventions that account for these determinants. This collaborative research is supported by CIHR, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), and Nova Scotia Health.

Abstract: Emerging research has shown increases in violence against women (VAW) – including domestic violence and sexual violence – during the COVID-19. VAW is a major determinant of poor health burdens among women (including injury, mental health problems, and chronic disease and pain). Both social and healthcare providers who typically serve VAW survivors have had to quickly adapt their programming to address the rapidly changing conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic, facing documented challenges along the way, such as resource strain, limited technology, and personal and professional stress. It is important to know how new and modified interventions for VAW survivors have been implemented across health and social care systems, the extent to which these systems have collaborated, what factors internal and external to organizations impacted these processes, and the outcomes for survivors. Armed with this knowledge, we can determine the coordinated response strategies that have (and have not) worked best to support VAW survivors, as well as the contextual factors that facilitated the success of different strategies. This will allow us to identify best practices to strengthen systems-level responses to VAW and promote women’s health and wellbeing during and beyond this pandemic.  

Since 2020, our research team has been collaborating on a community-partnered, mixed-methods study to address these knowledge gaps in the Greater Toronto Area (the Marginalization and COVID-19, or MARCO-VAW study). We conducted a survey of 127 direct support and leadership staff at 32 VAW organizations across the city followed by a focus group and interviews with 23 direct support and leadership staff and 10 VAW survivors. In this presentation, I will share results from our study on the extent of adaptations undertaken across the Toronto VAW sector, the contextual factors that influenced those adaptations (e.g., funding), and how well VAW services have been meeting the needs of survivors. I will also discuss the steps we are undertaking to expand this study, with funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Nova Scotia Health, across Ontario and the Maritimes. Our research illustrates that a network of supportive services for VAW survivors is essential and the detrimental impacts of not prioritizing social care systems during and beyond the pandemic.