Want to understand the health inequalities in the neighborhood? Talk to moms Pi News

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It started as a way to better understand vaccine reluctance. But a community research project in Park-Extension has grown many more.

To find out why children and teens are not getting their Govt-19 vaccine, the ECHO program was launched last fall in two Montreal neighborhoods.

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At Park X, four mothers from different backgrounds were hired and trained to conduct the interview. Moms brainwashed how to support a family decision about the vaccine – but the conversations didn’t stop there.

Researchers began to hold meetings with Park X moms, which also included activities for children. First held on Mother’s Day.

Shamsun Nahar Khan, one of the mothers hired by Project ECHO, says “a lot of problems came up”.

They found that barriers to finding a gynecologist or pediatrician were common. But other topics such as isolation, housing, immigration and childcare often arose – issues that could cause health problems.

A woman sits on a park bench.
Taranjit Kaur, a mother of two and a former resident of the park, says she struggled with loneliness and depression. She says having a community of mothers to talk to helped her mental health. (Jennifer Yoon / CBC)

“We realized that mothers need more than the vaccine,” says Joyce Senka, a graduate student in public health at McGill University, who supports mothers conducting research.

He says having a place for mothers to be vulnerable, to share their hardships, and to be with one another is one way to combat some health inequalities.

Taranjit Kaur, a mother of two living in Park X and attending the meeting, is well aware of this.

“I have a lot of depression before,” he says.

Having a group of fellow moms who can go outside and chat with them through ECHO and other companies African or Feminine Helped, she says.

Project ECHO invites experts such as someone from the nearby Community Health Center (CLSC) to help mothers find evidence and solutions to the obstacles they face.

“It’s really driven by mothers and what they want. So we always try to get their feedback as much as possible, then provide resources and bring in experts based on their needs,” Senka said.

Rahma Kasowani, a mother of three, appreciates that there is a place for mothers to talk about these issues without arranging childcare.

“We have to keep doing this because we need it,” he says.

A girl in a park.
Rahma Kasowani, a mother of three in Park-Extension, says mothers need a place like this in the neighborhood. (Jennifer Yoon / CBC)

Research conducted by moms

At Park X, with its large allophone and diaspora population, researchers wanted to take a community-based approach to every part of the process – even if the scope was broader than initially thought.

“We need to focus on what comes first in their minds,” says Niels Billow, managing director of the Humanos Institute, who has been working with the ECHO team to design the project.

“You can’t talk about vaccine imbalances without talking about access, for example, to pediatricians or about mental health,” he says.

He says allowing moms to rule can take into account the specific needs of Park X and create solutions that are socially acceptable to the people in the community.

Britt McKinnon, co-lead researcher on the project, says they plan to share its findings.

“We want social organizations to be helpful so they can learn from our decisions,” he says.

“I can see for sure that these plans are sustainable.”

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