Nova Scotia

Study aims to understand impact of COVID-19 on Nova Scotia's Black communities

A new Dalhousie University study is looking at the impact COVID-19 is having on Nova Scotia's historic Black communities in order to better prepare people for future emergencies.

Online survey open to people 18 and older who live in the Prestons

Ingrid Waldron is an associate professor in Dalhousie University's school of nursing. Her new study is called 'A culturally specific COVID-19 response strategy for African Nova Scotians in the Prestons. (Mark Crosby/CBC)

A new Dalhousie University study is looking at the impact of the pandemic on Nova Scotia's historic Black communities in order to better prepare people for future emergencies.

Researchers are hoping to hear from people who live in the Prestons, neighbouring communities on the outskirts of Halifax that include North Preston, East Preston, Cherry Brook and Lake Loon.

They hope the race-based data they collect will help Public Health know why some people are at risk of getting COVID-19, and what supports they might need.

"I believe that people want to talk about this," Ingrid Waldron, who's leading the study, told CBC Radio's Information Morning.

"It gives them an opportunity to talk about COVID, but also to talk about those structural barriers that have long impacted health and mental health for racialized people in this province." 

The study includes an online survey that covers a range of topics, from people's current health conditions to food security and the makeup of their households. 

"Black people in general, whether it's the Caribbean or in the Prestons, they tend to live in multigenerational households, and that means that you're less likely to physically distance so that's an extremely important question," Waldron said.

The information that's collected will also be used by another research project led by OmiSoore Dryden, the James R. Johnston chair in Black studies at Dalhousie University, who's looking to develop an African Nova Scotian health registry.

Why the data is needed

Miranda Cain is a research assistant with the project. (Miranda Cain)

Miranda Cain, who was part of the Preston Community COVID-19 Response Team, said having access to race-based data during the first wave of the pandemic would have been hugely beneficial, but it didn't exist. 

"There was nothing there at all that we could use as a window for resources, for anything," said Cain, a research assistant on the project. "So this right here at least it's a base and it gives us awareness and it will help to eliminate a lot of the fear."

Cain said people need to have access to reliable information about the risks of COVID-19 in order to protect themselves and their neighbours.

"When you know better, you do better," she said. "Right now, everybody's obeying six feet, masks ... We want to be able to be prepared for the event if something like this were to happen again."

Survey available online

The first part of Waldron's study involved interviews with community members last year. 

Now, researchers are looking for people over the age of 18 who are of African descent and live in the Prestons to take part in the 25-minute online survey.  After that, they plan to hold focus groups.

Waldron hopes collecting this kind of data will provide a blueprint for the provincial and federal governments as "it's their responsibility ultimately," she said.

"Certainly the report will be sent to key Public Health people in the province and also federally, but it's also kind of an encouragement to Public Health, to the federal government about the importance of collecting this type of data," Waldron said. 

She expects a final report to be released this summer.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.


With files from CBC Radio's Information Morning