Resilience in Young People and Service Providers

Image courtesy of Trevor Sampson, World Bank

The term “resilience” is used to mean positive adaptation to significant adversity in the context of a particular population or culture. This theme is being developed in relation to two groups: young people and health workers (service providers). We aim to understand how resilience compares in young people from different cultures and the factors that contribute to their resilience. With regard to health workers, we plan to explain why and how formal and informal health professionals adjust positively to occupational adversity across time. Linking the two groups, we will investigate the biological, social-ecological and psychological resources associated with resilience in professionals who promote the health of youth in different settings. Finally, we plan to use the emerging understandings to enhance support systems and design appropriate interventions for both groups.

These initial research projects will serve as baseline studies to inform the design of interventions aimed at enhancing resilience in the target groups, compared to control groups in the same environments. Follow-up studies will assess the impact of the interventions. Two main projects have been conceptualised:

Youth Resilience Project

First formulated in March 2014 in Cape Town, the goal of this research program is to investigate the individual, family, school and community factors that promote resilience in migrant youth across cultures in different countries.

To date, a basic research proposal has been devised, key site members have been identified and literature reviews have been completed. Several multi-site youth panels have also been conducted for qualitative data that has helped inform the measures to be included in the larger project design. The proposed testing sites include Australia (Sydney), New Zealand, the United Kingdom (Bristol and York), South Africa and China.

The core global project incorporates a common design, participant cohort and selection of specific measures that each site needs to adopt and commit to. However, each site has the opportunity to supplement the design with additional measures of their choosing, depending on local funding availability.

All participants will be assessed at baseline and at a two-year follow-up to evaluate the impact of resilience processes predictive in mental health outcomes over time. The core measures will incorporate indices of individual functioning as measured using a series of self-report, IQ and biological assessments (such as saliva sampling and body mass index measurements), as well as reports from primary care givers.

The pilot project proposes that each site tests the series of self-report and IQ measures in a small cohort (around 30 participants per site) of 13- and 14-year-old youth of low socio-economic status. The purpose of this pilot study is to test the feasibility of administering the questionnaires to this age group, and to evaluate the reliability and validity of the measures.

Resilience in service providers in public health

Based at the University of Leeds, this group is working on five linked research studies, in order to be more inclusive of non-professionals and volunteers. The hypothesis of the studies is that certain measureable resilience factors in service providers working in public health are modifiable or can be enhanced by a structured intervention.

A brief description of each of the five linked research studies:

  1. Resilience and community mediators: working with children and young people in challenging urban contexts (coordinator: Pam Fisher)
  2. Resilience and professionals/volunteers working with and supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex (LGBTI) youth in urban, rural and remote contexts (coordinator: Rob Cover)
  3. Resilience among young doctors doing compulsory community service in South Africa (coordinator: Steve Reid)
  4. The risk of protecting children: enhancing resilience in South African designated social workers (coordinator: Elmien Truter)
  5. A team under the leadership of Joseph Lau in Hong Kong is developing a research project to look at resilience and mental health and risk behaviours among health workers in HIV and MSM orientated NGOs in mainland China.

Each of the studies plans to undertake formative research to pilot the research questions in 2015, and researchers will meet in December 2015 in Cape Town in order to analyse the preliminary findings and to plan the next stages. Ultimately, understandings of the processes underpinning professional resilience emerging from this study will be applied to enhance the development of professional training and education.

Priorities for the future include establishing synergies with other WUN public health themes (such as migration, school health) and bringing an EU-based and a US-based partner onboard.

  • Professor Steve Reid, University of Cape Town
  • Professor Petrus de Vries, University of Cape Town
  • Ms Sarah Crawford-Browne, University of Cape Town
  • Philip Smith, University of Cape Town
  • Associate Professor Roshan Galvaan, University of Cape Town
  • Dr Anthea Brinkman, University of Cape Town
  • Dr Janet Giddy, Provincial Government of the Western Cape
  • Professor Linda Theron, North-West University
  • Dr Elmien Truter, North-West University
  • Dr Ansie Fouche, North-West University
  • Professor Kate Cockroft, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Associate Professor Catriona Elder, University of Sydney 
  • Associate Professor Rob Cover, University of Western Australia
  • Professor Kim Foster, University of Canberra
  • Zephyr Bloch-Jorgensen, MAP Wellbeing
  • Dr Justine Gatt, University of New South Wales
  • Professor Richard Bryant, University of New South Wales
  • Dr Angela Nickerson, University of New South Wales
  • Dr Belinda Liddell, University of New South Wales
  • Dr Brock Bastian, University of New South Wales
  • Ms Rebecca Alexander, University of New South Wales
  • Dr Pamela Fisher, University of Leeds
  • Associate Professor Martin McAreavey, University of Leeds
  • Professor Christopher Megone, University of Leeds
  • Dr Richard Slade, University of Leeds
  • Professor Alan Emond, University of Bristol
  • Dr Carol Joinson, University of Bristol
  • Dr Amanda Mason-Jones, University of York
  • Dr Trecia Wouldes, University of Auckland
  • Dr Suzanne Stevens, University of Auckland
  • Dr Judith McCool, University of Auckland 
  • Professor Michael Ungar, Dalhousie University
  • Dr Linda Liebenberg, Dalhousie University
  • Dr Collins Airhihenbuwa, Pennsylvania State University
  • Professor Bill Beardslee, Harvard University Medical School
  • Assistant Professor Abigail Harrison, Brown University & University of Cape Town
  • Assistant Professor Caroline Kuo, Brown University & University of Cape Town
  • Assistant Professor Qiaobing Wu, Chinese University of Hong Kong
  • Professor Joseph Lau, Chinese University of Hong Kong
  • Dr Phoenix Mo, Chinese University of Hong Kong
  • Dr Hairong Nan, Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Public Health (Non-communicable Disease)