Public webinar series to explore youth engagement in research

‘Nothing about us without us’ is a concept Karen Patte and her team follow to ensure youth are active in designing and carrying out research on youth health and well-being.

“Who knows better about what’s important and what’s happening with youth than youth themselves?” says the Brock Assistant Professor of Health Sciences. “Youth have a right to be involved in decisions that impact them. Integrating youth voices in research benefits both research and youth themselves, but we need to do so authentically.”

Knowledge Mobilization Officer and team member Jayne Morrish says youth-focused researchers “can learn in one meeting with youth things they would have never thought of in a dozen lab meetings without youth at the table.

“It pushes research and knowledge mobilization forward,” she says.

But engaging youth in the research process is easier said than done.

To that end, their team organized, and is hosting, a weekly four-part webinar series open to the public.

The sessions, which run throughout March, will explore youth engagement methods, strategies and real-world examples that can be applied to child and youth health studies:

The webinar series is being funded by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) under the leadership of Emily Belita, Assistant Professor of Nursing at McMaster University.

Belita hopes the webinar series will provide a foundation to strengthen knowledge and skills on youth engagement among youth health researchers, youth-serving organizations, trainees, students and youth leaders.

“Our aim is to facilitate these diverse opportunities for knowledge exchange to support ongoing discussion and reflection, and encourage integration of effective youth engagement strategies into youth health studies so that research accurately captures the lived experiences of youth,” she says.

Patte says the webinar series brings together two large Canadian youth research teams: the COMPASS study and the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study in Canada.

Members of the COMPASS and HBSC teams will be hosting small group discussions, not open to the public, on how best to use the methods and strategies put forth in the webinar series.

The COMPASS study is a national longitudinal youth health study that started in 2012 and will run until 2028. The network of researchers collects health information from about 65,000 Grade 9 to 12 students attending more than 130 secondary schools in Alberta, B.C., Ontario and Quebec. Patte is the Co-Principal Investigator and Mental Health lead of the COMPASS study.

The Canadian HBSC study is a nationally representative cross-sectional study that collects data on youth aged 11 to 15 years old every four years to gain insight on young people’s well-being, health behaviours and social contexts. Brock Associate Professor of Health Sciences William Pickett is the Co-Principal Investigator and is also part of the team organizing the webinar series.

Other members of the team that put together the series include Brock post-doctoral fellow Negin Riazi, Brock Assistant Professor of Health Sciences Valerie Michaelson, Queen’s University Professor of Psychology Wendy Craig and University of Waterloo Professor of Health Sciences Scott Leatherdale.

“We’re excited for our two large Canadian youth studies to be collaborating,” says Patte. “There is great opportunity, both with our respective strengths, and now with co-leaders of both COMPASS and HBSC here at Brock University.”

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