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Medical school to use 'theatre-based' engagement sessions to increase indigenous vaccination rate

First Nations youth and young adults were vaccinated at lower rates than older people in northern Ontario
Drs. Marion Maar and  nosm
Drs. Marion Maar and Maurianne Reade

Young Indigenous people have lower vaccination rates, so Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) researchers are aiming to strengthen vaccine confidence among them.

Drs. Marion Maar, Associate Professor, Medical Anthropology, and Maurianne Reade, Associate Professor, Clinical Sciences Division are principal research investigators for the project, Co-Creating Vaccine Confidence: An Anishinabe Theatre-based Approach to Strengthen Indigenous Youth and Young Adult Vaccination Support.

Funded for $200,000 over two years by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, the team will "combine Indigenous arts-based research methods with public health approaches to learn what matters most to young people regarding COVID-19 vaccinations," says a news release.

“Like other regions, First Nations youth and young adults were vaccinated at lower rates than older people in northern Ontario,” says Dr. Reade, 

Together with Mariette Sutherland, a First Nations health leader, the team will support knowledge translation by communicating their findings with Indigenous communities and with the public health sector across the country.

“The team will use surveys and theatre-based engagement sessions to better understand the lived experience of the pandemic from the perspective of young Indigenous peoples,” says Dr. Maar. “We are interested in learning how Indigenous youth receive their health information, and what structural and intergenerational factors they may face. Most importantly, we invite all youth perspectives to highlight the specific needs of urban, rural, First Nations, Métis, gender diverse and 2SLGBTQ+ community members.”

Debajehmujig Storytellers and artistic leads, Bruce Naokwegijig and Joahnna Berti, hold international credentials in Indigenous performing art. They are focusing on the youth engagement part of the project in collaboration with Alison Humphrey from the ImmuneNations project. Together, they will co-create “forum theatre”—a performing art form that leverages speculative fiction and serious games to foster Indigenous youth-led conversations about COVID-19 vaccines.