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logo: the Cohesion StudyProfessors Kevin Milne and Cheri McGowan are promoting local participation in the Cohesion Study evaluating the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on individuals.

Kinesiology profs push to have Windsor-Essex included in national pandemic study

A national survey promoted by a pair of UWindsor kinesiology professors will help local health officials plan programming for Windsor and Essex County residents through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Kevin Milne and Cheri McGowan are urging local residents to participate in The Cohesion Study. Through a series of short online surveys, the study aims to find out how COVID-19 has affected the daily activities, social interactions, and mental health of ordinary Canadians.

The research findings will be shared regularly with health units and other public health decision-makers across the nation, offering timely information to develop good policy and programs to help Canadians cope with the pandemic.

“This is important information, and Windsor and our region should have a voice,” said Dr. Milne.

“The most interesting part for us is to learn how the mitigation procedures have impacted the mental, social, and physical health of our region so that in the future these impacts can drive decision-making and support programs.”

Milne learned of the study through Dr. McGowan, whose sister, Kate Zinszer, is leading the project with colleagues from the Université de Montréal and a researcher at the University of Saskatchewan. Milne and McGowan are long-time collaborators of Zinszer, an epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist in Montréal’s Faculty of Medicine.

Milne contacted the local health unit and got Windsor and Essex County included in the study. UWindsor researchers have offered to collaborate on the project and help with analytics.

Ramsey D’Souza, manager of epidemiology and evaluation at the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, said the region will benefit from its participation: “We had been looking at how to collect the same kind of information.”

He said he was pleased to learn there was a national research project already out there.

“There are a lot of societal concerns surrounding COVID-19,” D’Souza said, citing examples like social distancing and the isolation many residents feel. “It’s important to understand the impacts of these consequences.”

D’Souza said the local health unit wants at least 400 local residents take part in the study, but hopes that number is closer to 3,000.

He said survey is especially important for the design and delivery of mental health programs. The data collected will direct help to the socio-economic groups needing it most.

The survey includes questions about attitudes and practices related to COVID-19 and containment measures; daily mobility and changes in social activities; mental health, social isolation and stigma, socio-demographics, food security; and household composition.

Anyone 15 or older can take part. Participants complete surveys on a regular basis and can download a research app that collects information on mobility, physical activity and social contacts.

The first survey asks respondents to think back to their lives before the pandemic struck. Subsequent surveys track respondents throughout the pandemic and will be useful in gauging how Canadians are adjusting to re-opening measures. The survey will conclude six months after the pandemic ends.

The information collected is confidential and stored on secure servers in Canada. Each time a participant completes a survey, they are automatically entered into a raffle to win an Amazon gift card. Learn more on the Cohesion Study website.

—Sarah Sacheli

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