Ehsan Jozaghi successfully defends dissertation
By Christine Palka
Criminology PhD candidate Ehsan Jozaghi has published multiple journal articles in his short academic career. His research explores changes in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) over the past 18 years, specifically the effects of a supervised injection site, peer drug users’ social networks, and harm reduction programs.
Jozaghi successfully defended his PhD dissertation, “The Role of Peer Drug Users’ Social Networks and Harm Reduction Programs in Changing the Dynamics for People Who Use Drugs in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, Canada” on April 15. From September 2012, nine peer-reviewed studies were published from his research findings.
The dissertation discusses two broad themes: the practicality of supervised injection facilities in saving health care dollars, and a unique discussion on how peer drug users’ support is transforming the DTES community.
Jozaghi applied cost benefits analyses to Vancouver’s Insite, the only supervised injection facility in North America, proving that the facility provides enough monetary savings to justify its’ operating expenses. He saw similar results when applying the analyses to major cities across Canada: Victoria, Saskatoon, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.
“All the cities that I have looked at indicate that benefits do exceed the costs of operating because of reductions in HIV and Hepatitis C infections, and overdose death reductions. These benefits are significant, sometimes over two or three million dollars for the facilities that we looked at. So it is very significant margins,” said Jozaghi.
What makes Jozaghi’s study particularly interesting is that he looks beyond dollars and cents when assessing the value of facilities like Insite. His research provides a unique perspective that other studies have not explored – the actual opinions of injection drug users on the value of supervised injection sites and harm reduction programs to their communities.
Jozaghi interviewed multiple peer injection drug users affiliated with Insite or the Washington Needle Depot (WND). These interviews collected the volunteers’ opinions on how Insite and the WND, plus their own volunteer efforts, are changing the DTES for the better.
His findings show that peers play an important role in improving the lifestyle of those living in the DTES:
“The research regarding Insite is very clear. It has reduced vulnerabilities amongst injected drug users and reduced deaths outside of the facility. It has also increased the outtake for addiction services, and increased the health and well being of people who use drugs,” said Jozaghi.
“Peers are instrumental in not only increasing health care services for a very marginalized population who normally do not try to get access to health care services and prevention programs. But these peers are also increasing the voice of marginalized peoples in the DTES. It’s a very effective method of health care delivery for this community.”
Jozaghi’s comprehensive research efforts have provided new knowledge on the value of supervised injection sites, peer drug users’ social networks and harm reduction programs. He’s demonstrated that these efforts do improve health care services for high injection drug user populations.
Jozaghi will graduate in summer 2015. He is continuing his research by conducting a social network analysis of peer injection drug users for Dr. Martin Bouchard. In a few years, Jozaghi aims to enroll in medical school to further his interest in improving access to health care services for marginalized peoples.