Resilience in Youth and Service Providers

Image courtesy of Trevor Sampson, World Bank

The WUN Resilience Working Group was initiated in 2014 by Prof Steve Reid who is based at the Primary Health Care Directorate, University of Cape Town and is currently made up of 25 members. Two thematic project groups have developed which include the ‘Youth Resilience Core Global Project’ whose aim is to investigate the individual, family, school and community factors that promote resilience in migrant youth across cultures, as well as the ‘Resilience in Service Providers in Public Health Project’ which is comprised of five linked research projects.

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 both groups who aim to understand how resilience compares in young people from different cultures, and the factors that contribute to their resilience, as well as to explain why and how formal and informal service providers adjust positively to occupational adversity across time. Both groups are engaged in investigating the biological, social-ecological and psychological resources associated with resilience in different settings.

The overall aim is to use the emerging understandings to enhance support systems and design appropriate interventions.

Long-term research goals include:

1. Developing a deeper understanding of the biological, social-ecological and psychological resources associated with resilience in youth and professionals who promote the health of youth in different settings.

2. Impacting on policy, advocacy and practice that promotes resilience for both groups.

3. Strengthening the research capacity/capability of, and contributing to promoting economic development and social welfare in, the Newton Fund Partner country - by facilitating training and skill transfer from the UK to partner countries.

4. Supporting excellent research - by linking the best researchers in the UK with the best researchers in partner countries and providing support for collaborative research.

5. Establishing long term research links - between both partners to ensure sustainable research capacity in partner countries and benefit to the UK/SA research community in the longer term.

Ongoing priorities include strategic planning and applications for grants and funding, establishing synergies with other WUN Public Health themes including Migration and School Health, establishing an EU-based and a US-based partner, and the publishing of joint publications.

The group has to date collaborated and developed a range of new projects and proposals, completed a number of literature reviews, published a handful of journal articles, maintained an electronic resource facility hosted by the WUN, set up a New Perspectives on Resilience blog, initiated preliminary work on developing and testing resilience tools, and conducted a number of qualitative studies.

Peer reviewed research outputs in accredited journals will be targeted once the collaborative research is completed.

The overall objectives of the research is to:

  • Determine the personal, contextual and cultural elements that support the resilience of a young person who has migrated, and under which circumstances migration creates adversity for youth.
  • Determine how resilience processes of youth, who experience migration as adverse, compare across different cultures and contexts.
  • Determine if current measures of resilience are valid across multiple cultures, contexts and within ethnic groups.
  • Investigate how biological, cognitive, social, emotional, environmental and cultural processes interact to support resilience over time.
  • Identify interventions that successfully promote positive adaptation in migrant youth.

Youth Resilience
Dr Justine Gatt based at the University of New South Wales and Neuroscience Research Australia is the coordinator of the Youth Resilience working group. The ‘Youth Resilience Core Global Project’ is a collaborative, cross-cutting project that includes researchers from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, South Africa and China. Studies include:

1. Australia/Canada/New Zealand/United Kingdom/South Africa/China study: ‘The International Youth Resilience Project: A pilot study’ (coordinator: Dr Justine Gatt)

2. Canada/South Africa study: ‘Patterns of resilience among youth in contexts of petrochemical production and consumption in the global north and global south’ (coordinators: Prof Michael Ungar & Prof Linda Theron)

3. United Kingdom/South Africa study: ‘Patterns of resilience among young people in a community affected by drought: Historical and contextual perspectives’ (coordinator: Prof Linda Theron & Dr Angie Hart)

4. China/United Kingdom study: ‘Migration Policy, Welfare Boundary, Social Integration and the Health-related Quality of Life of Children from immigrant families’ (coordintors: Ass/Prof Qiaobing Wu & Prof Alan Emond)

Resilience in Service Providers in Public Health
Dr Pamela Fisher, a sociologist working in the area of health promotion at Leeds Beckett University, is the coordinator of the Service Providers working group. The group are engaged with five linked research studies. Four joint papers are planned on issues of methodology, time, place and professionalism, each led by a different member of the group, in addition to the local papers from each country team. In addition to the country or site-specific studies, nine papers in total should arise from this group. Studies include:

1. United Kingdom study: ‘Resilience and community mediators: working with children and young people in challenging urban contexts’ (coordinators: Dr Pamela Fisher & Assoc/Prof Lisa Buckner)

2. South African study: ‘Resilience amongst young doctors doing compulsory Community Service in South Africa’ (coordinators: Prof Steve Reid & Dr Janet Giddy)

3. South African study: ‘The risk of protecting children: Enhancing resilience in South African designated Social Workers’ (coordinator: Dr Elmien Truter & Dr Ansie Fouche)

4. Australian study: ‘Resilience and professionals/ volunteers working with and supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex (LGBTI) youth in urban, rural and remote contexts’ (coordinator: Associate/Prof Rob Cover)

5. China study: ‘Resilience among health service workers or providers at the Emergency Room at hospitals in Mainland China’ (coordinator: Dr Hairong Nan)

Contact details:

Youth Project Coordinator

Dr Justine Gatt

Service Providers Project Coordinator

Dr Pamela Fisher

South Africa

  • Professor Steve Reid, University of Cape Town
  • Ms Sarah Crawford-Browne, 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


  • Dr Justine Gatt, University of New South Wales and NeuRA
  • Ms Rebecca Alexander, University of New South Wales and NeuRA
  • Associate Professor Rob Cover, University of Western Australia
  • Professor Kim Foster, Australian Catholic University
  • Associate Professor Catriona Elder, University of Sydney
  • Zephyr Bloch-Jorgensen, MAP Wellbeing
  • United Kingdom
  • Dr Pamela Fisher, Leeds Beckett University
  • Professor Alan Emond, University of Bristol
  • Dr Amanda Mason-Jones, University of York
  • Dr Nasrin Nasr, University of Sheffield
  • Associate Professor Lisa Buckner, University of Leeds


  • Professor Michael Ungar, Dalhousie University
  • Dr Linda Liebenberg, Dalhousie University

New Zealand

  • Dr Trecia Wouldes, University of Auckland
  • Dr Judith McCool, University of Auckland


  • Assistant Professor Qiaobing Wu, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
  • Dr Hairong Nan, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

United States of America

  • Assistant Professor Caroline Kuo, Brown University

Public Health (Non-communicable Disease)