Nadine Kallas MA Thesis Proposal

Title: “Understanding the perspectives of Syrian refugee women toward their health and physical activity needs as they become integrated into Canadian society”

Supervisor: Dr. Patricia Vertinsky (Kinesiology)
Committee Members: Dr. Andrea Bundon (Kinesiology), Dr. Wendy Frisby (Kinesiology), Dr. Deirdre Kelly (Education)

Abstract: Canada has played a significant role in one of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis by welcoming and supporting nearly 40,000 Syrian refugees into our communities to date. There is a growing initiative by community partners and academic institutions to conduct research on the integration and long-term health outcomes of Syrian refugees. Existing research reveals that many newcomers experience a decline in physical and mental health following migration. Furthermore, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that physical inactivity is common in particular culturally and linguistically diverse migrant groups (Vang et al., 2016; Newbold, 2009) However, research is particularly sparse in relation to the health of Syrian refugee women displaced to Canada in recent months. Low levels of physical activity and settlement-related challenges can result in social isolation and exclusion for refugee women, which may then compromise the health-status of this already vulnerable population (Shishehgar et al., 2016; Vang et al., 2015).

The aim of this study is to explore the perspectives of Syrian refugee women in relation to healthy physical activity and to understand how their views and actions are being influenced by migration to Canada. This information will help us to better understand culturally appropriate inclusion practices within services offered by health care professionals and community service providers. I will conduct qualitative semi-structured interviews with ten Syrian refugee women who have been recently displaced to Canada. Participants will be primarily recruited from non-profit immigrant service organizations and from UBC campus where there are a number of Syrian refugee students. The proposed study has the potential to provide insight into the role community based physical activity services might play in promoting healthier lives for refugee women. As a Canadian female with a Syrian background I hope to be able to facilitate meaningful conversations with recruited participants, in order to learn more about their interests and attitudes towards health and physical culture. In turn I hope the information gained will assist in the provision of culturally appropriate opportunities for healthful physical activity.