PROTECH: Pandemic Rapid-response Optimization To Enhance Community-Resilience and Health is a community-engaged action research project that aims to reduce the negative psychosocial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Chinese Canadians and other affected groups while promoting community resilience. Previous pandemics have been shown to not only affect our physical health but also one’s psychological and social wellbeing. As the first racialized groups hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chinese Canadians and diasporic communities have experienced increased stigma and racism, further intensifying the overall mental health, economic and social impact shared by broader Canadian communities.
PROTECH builds on lessons learned from the HIV and SARS pandemics, where many of our team members and community collaborators were at the forefront of the community response to address racism, stigma, and mental health challenges. Guided by the principles of meaningful engagement, community empowerment and social justice, we have developed three unified programs to support community response:
(1) COVID-19 Info Hub (CIH): A multi-lingual (Chinese–simplified and traditional, and English)resource hub for both community members and frontline service providers, which can be accessed through desktop and mobile platforms. The virtual hub provides: (a) culturally and locally relevant up-to-date information about the epidemic and preventive practices; (b) tips on how to evaluate unfiltered information from diverse sources of traditional and social media; (c) mental health first-aid support strategies to address anxiety, fear, stigma, grief, and difficult emotions; and (d) contextualized strategies to deal with stigma, discrimination, and other related challenges. This virtual resource hub also offers users live support via text or by phone to provide information, support and referrals, while also providing insight on common concerns and issues to inform timely community response. To date, we have recruited and trained close to 50 volunteers to support this resource hub and live-chat.
(2) Pandemic Acceptance and Commitment to Empowerment Response (PACER) Training: PACER is a mindfulness and social justice-based group training, consisting of six interactive online learning modules and six corresponding weekly group video-conferences. PACER is designed to provide participants with tools to cope with COVID-19-related demands and challenges. However, the program is unique in that it builds on the insights gained from stigma reduction and empowerment interventions previously carried out by our team members. It goes beyond psychological coping to support participants in building collective resilience and empowerment. PACER is offered to highly impacted and impactful groups, such as frontline service providers and individuals/families directly impacted by COVID-19, as well as community leaders who play key roles in advancing community responses.
(3) Systematic Pandemic Active Response Collaborative (SPARC) Model: The SPARC model aims to connect, mobilize, and align existing people, processes and resources to mount multi-sector responses to combat the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. is a dynamic live-model that is grounded in the principles of shared leadership, meaningful engagement and collective empowerment principles. At the same time, SPARC draws on ongoing insights and evidence gained through the implementation of the PROTECH project. The PROTECH team is working closely with community partners and collaborators to identify trending issues among Chinese Canadians and other affected communities, with the aim to mobilize leaders, volunteers and relevant stakeholders to collectively provide timely responses to urgent needs in the communities (e.g., forming new partnerships to provide grief counselling to affected families, and working with collaborators track incidents of racism and discrimination). Lessons learned from PROTECH will strengthen SPARC as a community rapid response model that can be used during future pandemics.
The PROTECH team is made up of clinicians, researchers, and leaders from diverse fields, including arts, non-profit, public and business sectors. We also engage key opinion leaders and community influencers to broaden our reach within the community. To capture new insights and critical knowledge, we work closely with our collaborators and use surveys, focus groups, field observations, and big data on engagement metrics to document the effectiveness of PROTECH in mitigating the negative impacts of COVID-19 at the individual, organizational, and community levels. We anticipate that PROTECH, as a rapid response model, will be scalable and adaptable for use across different communities in Canada and beyond, and can contribute to local, regional, national and international responses to COVID-19 and similar pandemics in future.