Principal Investigator: Catherine Panter-Brick (Yale University)
This research assessed the health impact of Advancing Adolescents, a psychosocial intervention of structured, group-based activities for youth affected by the Syria and Iraq crises. This programme is a brief, scalable intervention, implemented by Mercy Corps in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey as part of the No Lost Generation initiative. It is strategic in focusing on adolescence, a key time for protecting the next generation and building its future, and innovative in serving both refugee & host communities.
The impact evaluation was a randomised controlled trial, measuring the impacts of profound stress attunement for 11-15 year old Syrian refugee and Jordanian youth, living in five urban centers in northern Jordan. It examined psychosocial, physiological and cognitive outcomes – stress in the mind, the body, and the brain – as well as levels of resilience, at three time-points (pre-intervention, post-intervention, 1-year follow-up).
Youth-focused interventions in humanitarian crises had never previously measured stress alleviation in ways that go beyond subjective self-reports, through measuring ‘stress under the skin’ or ‘toxic stress’ in the brain. This mixed-method study was the first to do so, including measures of stress biomarkers and tablet-based tests of cognitive function. Robust scientific assessments are essential in order to inform potential scale up strategies.
The study demonstrated the effectiveness of methods of assessment that go beyond self-reports. The use of hair cortisol, as a marker of chronic physiological stress, is a compelling indicator of stress regulation, which is an important outcome for crisis-affected populations.
As a result of the study, Mercy Corps has incorporated the key study findings into regional programming, and expanded the inclusion of psychosocial support as part of larger livelihoods interventions in Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Palestine.
Mercy Corps has also adopted three Arabic-language tools – the Child Youth Resilience Measure, the Human Insecurity scale and the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire – in ongoing programming in the Middle East Region, as this study demonstrated their relevance for research monitoring and impact evaluations.
A ‘proof-of-concept’ tool-kit to support academic and humanitarian actors to make informed choices around innovative methods for project evaluation was developed.
A number of peer-reviewed articles have been published as a result of this study on how to evaluate mental health, resilience, biological, and cognitive health outcomes in interventions focused on war-afflicted youth. These are listed below.
This study was selected by the R2HC for our Impact Case Study series. The case study is now available to view online.View
This paper receives the journal’s Certification of Achievement: In the top 10% downloaded paper in the 12 months following online publication.View
Findings published in Conflict and HealthView
Terror and Hope: The Science of Resilience is a story about children and war. This was streamed on PBS in 2023.View
Study: Poverty, not trauma, affects cognitive function in refugee youthView
A teen refugee's brain may be disrupted more by poverty than past traumaView
Study examines effects of genes and resilience on Syrian refugee youthView
In war zones and refugee camps, researchers are putting resilience interventions to the test. By tracking the physiological and psychological effects of one program on Syrian and Jordanian teenagers, scientists make some surprising discoveries... Read more.View
It is one thing to design a research project in a series of meetings between collaborators; it is quite another to implement the resulting program of work in the fieldView
The youth and community centre in Mafraq we were visiting bore all the familiar hallmarks of facility serving contemporary global youth: poster-bedecked rooms depicting preoccupations with cute animals, music idols…View
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