UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The opioid crisis and harm reduction in Vancouver's DTES : an appreciative inquiry of adult education approaches and the challenges of social media use by public health workers and peer educators Griffin-Pinnock, Denneisha Tracey-Ann


This qualitative study focused on how public health workers as adult educators in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) are creating supportive environments to foster community, education for equitable participation, empowerment and improved educational programming to address the current opioid crisis. Drawing on the theory of community empowerment as a conceptual framework, the study sought to answer four research questions through a process of Appreciative Inquiry: (a) What challenges and successes do grassroots approaches to public health encounter in promoting harm reduction activities? (b) What educational roles do residents of the Downtown Eastside play in harm reduction strategies? (c) How do health workers use social media as part of their work in Vancouver? (d) What public education strategies could be used to heighten the vitality of public health education in the Downtown Eastside? An appreciative inquiry methodology was employed to understand the current working relationships and aspects of community culture and public education that are proving effective in addressing the opioid crisis in the Downtown Eastside, and how social media platforms or apps are used for education and positive social change. Data for the study was collected through a view of media and other sources, and AI interviews with four academic experts on the opioid crisis in Vancouver. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and coded for themes. The four study findings were: (a) grassroots efforts such as face to face meetings by public health workers have proven effective in engaging with people who use drugs; (b) social media usage by public health workers for increased harm reduction has potential, but also a number of limitations; (c) social media as a community support requires deeper consideration and investigation for more positive results in communities affected; and (d) a two-way adult education and learning process is taking place in these communities, where people who use drugs are seen as experts alongside others involved in community education around the opioid crisis. These study results have important implications for community empowerment theory and public health programmes designed for adult learners situated in settings where there is high evidence of opioid addiction and overdose.

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