Responding to the Stigma, Fear, Discrimination, and Misinformation Related to the COVID‑19 Disease Outbreak: A Novel Analyses and Intervention for a Novel Coronavirus.

Gillis, Joseph R | $467,844

Ontario University of Toronto 2020 CIHR Operating Grant

The proposed research will analyze the stigma, fear, discrimination, and misinformation related to the spread of the novel coronavirus, now referred to by the scientific name, SARS-CoV-2. Our research team will approach the problem by using several strategies to gain information from members of the Chinese and East Asian communities in Canada which have been targets of much of the stigma, fear, discrimination and even, violence, targeted at them because they are perceived to be responsible for and spreading the SARS-CoV-2 virus. First, we will conduct interviews and focus groups with members of the Chinese and East Asian communities to document and understand their experiences related to the COVID‑19 disease epidemic, the scientific name now designated to identify the disease related to the new novel coronavirus. Next, we will conduct a representative survey of all Canadians which will assess their knowledge levels about SARS-CoV-2 including the prevalence, lethality, modes of infection and perceived personal risk of acquiring the virus. We will collect detailed information about aspects of participants’ identities such as their gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, social class, religion, age, and other factors to provide a context for understanding their responses. We will then work to propose a model of how these various factors fit together to assist public health officials and others to understand and respond to the COVID‑19 disease epidemic. Finally, we will design a social media response employing “social influencers” to counteract the negative message received about the COVID‑19 disease epidemic and communities associated with it, and construct a website based on the principles of motivational interviewing to decrease the prejudices and stereotypes of participants and increase their health-protective responses and feelings of resilience in response to the COVID‑19 disease epidemic.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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