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The Infectious Disease Working Group: reaching out to Toronto neighbourhoods hard hit by COVID-19

Recent grads from the University of Toronto banded together to support communities that are struggling because of the pandemic. Their latest project is a resource tracker that helps people find mental health, employment, and child care services.
By: Heather Marie Connors
August 01, 2020
Photo provided.

The Infectious Disease Working Group founders are Kahiye Warsame, Yulika Yoshida-Montezuma, Ashley Mah, Camilla Michalski, Harsh Naik, Anindita Marwah, Maura Eswaradas, Nousin Hussain and Kathleen Qu. All recent grads from the U of T’s School of Public Health, they formed the IDWG while still in school, when the pandemic first began. Their aim was to address what they saw as gaps in services and support for Toronto neighbourhoods being hit the hardest.

Recently the group partnered with Toronto 211 to create ReConnect, a tool intended to help link people with the social services they need, particularly those in under-served areas. Their work highlights the connection between economic disparity and the repercussions of infectious disease.

“There is a clear and emergent need to support communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and its associated socioeconomic ramifications,” said Kahiye Warsame.

The working group is also an example of interdisciplinary collaboration, involving students from epidemiology, social and behavioural health science, occupational health and Indigenous health. Their team is currently organizing a virtual conference, to bring together experts and community leaders to further explore the topic of infectious disease and health equity.

The founding members, now all working professionals, are planning to take on an advisory role in the fall, as current students take up the work they started.

“It’s bittersweet to see how far this group has come but also to recognize that it’s time for it to flourish with the next generation of students.,” said Yulika Yoshida-Montezuma.

Source: U of T News

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