Health Equity Interdisciplinary Development Initiative (HEIDI)

What is this project about?

Through the Interdisciplinary Development Initiatives (IDI) program at Western, HEIDI focused on mobilizing local health equity solutions for global problems.  CRHESI staff and researchers partnered with the University of Rwanda and the University of Global Health Equity in Kigali, Rwanda. Academic and community partners collaborated to develop new ways to think about complex health equity problems.

In the following CRHESI Lightning Talk, HEIDI co-lead, Nadine Wathen (Western University) , describes the project. HEIDI leads included Elysee Nouvet (Western University), Helene Berman (Western University) and Vincent Sezibera (University of Rwanada) with many partners.

What did this project do?

Project 1:  Pre-and post-migration trauma and health

Rwanda Lead: Clementine Kanazayire (University of Rwanda)

Canada Leads: Lloy Wylie (Western, Schulich School of Public Health), Heather Lokko (Middlesex London Health Unit)

Research Assistants: Damilola Toki, Aimee Josephine Utuza, Vivetha Thambinatha, Lotus Alphonsus, Thesani De Silva

Yolanda Babenko-Mould (Western, FHS), Deanna Befus (Western, FHS), Lorie Donelle (Western, FHS), Victoria Esses (Western, Anthropology), Innocent Iyakaremye (University of Rwanda), Abe Oudshoorn (Western, FHS), Debbie Rudman (Western, FHS)

  • Facilitated a series of educational vignettes about the refugee experience, called Migration Impacts on Trauma and Health
  • Developed teaching cases and provided case writing material for the casebook with the IDI Education project team led by Nicole Haggerty, Western, Ivey
  • Created simulation videos for education and mental health awareness purposes with NGOs and community organizations working with refugees on Refugee Impacts on Trauma and Mental Health
  • Workshop on Trauma and PTSD including presentations and interactive exercises on mental health, trauma and violence informed care programs, family initiatives
  • Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry supported a community-based research project on Yazidi Health in response to COVID-19, initiated by the London Cross Cultural Learners Centre, the London Intercommunity Health Centre, and the Middlesex London Health Unit

Project 2:  Trauma and violence informed care and approaches to providing care and developing services

Western Lead: Nadine Wathen

Rwanda Collaborators: Vincent Sezibera & Joseph Kalisa

This project saw the launch of the Gender, Trauma & Violence (GTV) Knowledge Incubator @ Western University. The GTV Incubator ( involves a number of HEIDI members, as well as community partners and trainees. Members (see span several universities, and, within Western, 4 Faculties.

Projects included: 

  • Contributions to “TVIC Handbook”, forthcoming from University of Toronto Press. The publisher website has details about the book.
  • The TVIC Workshop Evaluation Study – examining the impact of TVIC training from 2017-2020 – was completed and published in Public Health Nursing. The journal website has the article.
  • Susan Rodger, Matthew Sereda et al. incorporated TVIC into teacher training in Western’s BEd program. Evaluation work was conducted and published. The journal website has the article.
  • GTVIncubator members in Western Faculty of Education worked with two area police services on TVIC training, including research and evaluation components. Part of this work is included as a case study in a PhD thesis project. Western’s Thesis Repository has the thesis.
  • Online e-learning “TVIC Foundations Curriculum” funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada. The EQUIP website hosts the free curriculum.
  • Pathways to Care for People Who Use Drugs: Equipping Health Care to Tackle Stigma, Discrimination and Inequity. The EQUIP website hosts project information and resources.
  • Public health nurse home visiting practice curriculum funded by Ontario Ministry of Health. The EQUIP website hosts the curriculum.
  • In Rwanda, a team of school-based counsellors and psychologists who identified and reviewed the TVIC Foundations Curriculum to inform a local adapted curriculum for Rwandan schools
  • A scoping review of measures of TVIC, published in Trauma, Violence & Abuse.  The journal website has the article.
  • Presentations at the Nurses Network on Violence Against Women International conference. The journal Qualitative Nursing Research has the abstracts.
  • Exploring the implementation of TVIC in the Education (K-12) sectors in Canada and Rwanda.

Project 3: Power, Practice and Ethics in Global Health

Projects included:

  • Creation of a certificate program, One Health: An Innovative Approach to Equitably Address Complex Health Problems, designed by The University of Global Health Equity in partnership with the One Health team at Western. Western’s website gives more detail about the course.
  • Launched in 2021 and initiated as part of HEIDI the Global Health Equity Hub brings together people, events, research activities, educational opportunities, partnerships and student organizations dedicated to Global Health Equity at Western.
  • Research Excellence Certificate in Power & Equity – developed in collaboration with the Centre for Continuing Education, undergraduate students gain the foundation and skills required to be successful in research and professional work contexts
  • Critical and Ethical Global Engagement: A sourcebook of strategies and considerations by Western university faculty, graduate students, and partners, for enacting global health equity commitments in the classroom, community, and clinical practice. The Global Health Equity Hub website has a free download of the book.
  • Key knowledge mobilization events included evaluating the City Symposium program and Mbwira Ndumva Symposium program in Rwanda. The University of Global Health Equity website has more details about the program.
  • With CRHESI, 6 undergraduate Global Health Equity Research Fellowships were completed, with students engaged in research, scholarship or creative activities in the areas of racism and health; gender-based violence/trauma- and violence-informed care (TVIC); disabilities and equity; newcomer issues/challenges; homelessness and housing security; and, Two-Spirit and Indigenous LGBTQ+ health

HEIDI has accomplished, and indeed exceeded, the goals initially set out!

What can you learn from this project?

Forging explicit links between local and global health equity concerns and developing meaningful and ongoing new partnerships, creates sustainable research, teaching and knolwedge mobilization opportunites.

Cross national, cross sectoral research partnerships lead in creating solutions for local and global health equity.

A special memorial by the HEIDI team remembers Dr. Eugenia Canas.

The following posthumous publication captures Eugenia’s heart, commitment to justice, and profound capabilities as a writer and research collaborator:

Eugenia Canas, Robert Gough, Maxwell J. Smith, Erynn M. Monette, David D. McHugh, Marlene Janzen Le Ber, Tanya E. Benjamin-Thomas, Yvonne Kasine, Aimée J. Utuza & Elysée Nouvet (2021): What do we mean by critical and ethical global engagement? Questions from a research partnership between universities in Canada and Rwanda, Global Public Health, DOI: 10.1080/17441692.2021.1931401. The journal has the article