Sujane Kandasamy

The next time a South Asian young person wants to talk about COVID-19 vaccines with their parent or auntie or anyone in their family, they have a short video to make it easier.

A multi-language public service video has been released today by a network of epidemiologists, medical students and digital marketing professionals, including members of a PHRI study.

With a focus on the greater Toronto and Hamilton area, the South Asian Youth as Vaccine Agents of Change (SAY-VAC) research project is led by Sujane Kandasamy, a PhD candidate in Health Research Methodology at McMaster University, and a member of the PHRI study team, COVID CommUNITY-South Asian.

Evidence has demonstrated that South Asians in Canada have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and may also have concerns and questions about the vaccines. SAY-VAC, which received a $10,000 Public Health Agency of Canada grant, is equipping digitally-literate South Asian youth with evidence-based and engaging information and tools so they can act as agents of change within their multigenerational households.

Jayneel Limbachia

Sujane Kandasumy is leading a collective of South Asian health researchers, infectious disease epidemiologists, medical students, digital marketing experts, and project management professionals. Her team includes Jayneel Limbachia, a research coordinator at PHRI; Archchun Ariyarajah (University of Toronto); Baanu Manoharan and Abhilash Uddandam (McMaster); Karan Vansjalia (Western University) and young digital communications professionals Adrienne Silver, Luke Lopez, Derrick An, Quan Luu and Evan Pacht.

“As many of us are also South Asians with lived experience in our communities, we are well positioned to develop narrative-based and culturally appropriate messaging that will emotionally appeal to members of our community based on collectivist values,” says Sujane, who has a decade of experience working with priority populations in Canada, and specializes in the design and evaluation of knowledge translation interventions, multi-media health communication strategies, and the creation of short films.

Multi-lingual messaging

The team has the capacity to write messaging in Hindi, Punjabi, Gujarati, Urdu, Tamil, and Bengali which are the top six spoken South Asian languages in Canada. The team’s expertise in health research and epidemiology gives them the ability to support these narrative-based messages with accurate evidence-based health information tailored for lay audiences.

The team will work closely with the COVID CommUNITY-South Asian study team, led by PHRI Senior Scientist Sonia Anand, to curate reported reasons for limited vaccine confidence and address them in communications products. Other partners include the South Asian COVID Taskforce, COVID made Simple, South Asian Health Network, Alliance for South Asian Aids Prevention, and Chrysalis Media.

More about the Youth Ambassadors program, and other initiatives addressing South Asians and COVID vaccines, download this PDF, COVID Vaccine Townhall Followup Package.

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