New Start Finland!

The Inclusive Promotion of Health and Wellbeing PROMEQ consortium is funded by the Strategic Research Council (SRC) at the Academy of Finland as part of the research program Health, Welfare and Lifestyles. The project develops evidence-based and cost-effective models of health and wellbeing promotion that are able to talk to and assimilate vulnerable groups. Four groups at risk of health inequalities and lowered quality of life are targeted: young people not in education, employment or training (NEETs), basic unemployment benefit recipients, adult refugees and multi-users of social and health care. The PROMEQ consortium is led by Professor Marja Vaarama from University of Eastern Finland. In addition to University of Eastern Finland the project consortium comprises of University of Jyväskylä, University of Lapland, University of Tampere, Etla and Youth Research Society.

The subproject New Start Finland! focuses on developing and demonstrating novel models of promotion of health, wellbeing and social integration of refugees living in Eastern Finland. The idea is to develop models that are able to talk to and assimilate refugees as well as to motivate and empower positive transitions in health and wellbeing. As the growing body of empirical research indicates, refugees face significant barriers to social integration i.e. language acquisition, access to educational opportunities, employability and social inclusion, which results in negative outcomes for health and wellbeing. However, the scoping of the needs of the refugees and development of new models based to their needs to strengthen the social integration are lacking. The objective of the study is to improve health, wellbeing and early stage of resettlement of refugees through the evaluation of innovative interventions based on the social marketing approach.

Interventions were carried out employing elements of social marketing (sosiaalinen / yhteiskunnallinen markkinointi). Social marketing is a bottom-up approach that gives the participants an opportunity to co-create and co-designing the pilots. Social marketing has been widely used in health promotion but less in social issues. The lesson is that actions have to be targeted to modify the conditions in which people live and the target groups have to be involved in the planning and design of the efforts.

Aim of the study is to  

  • describe the profile of recent refugees living in  Eastern Finland
  • identify risk and resilience factors related to the quality of life of refugees
  • compare the quality of life of recent refugees to the Finnish population and other immigrant groups
  • design, deliver and evaluate the effectiveness of  a social marketing toolkit in promoting the community based integration for recent refugees
  • identify policy and service priorities for promoting effective integration of refugees

Participants of the study

  • adult quota refugees or refugees who have been granted asylum
  • age 18–65 years
  • entered Finland 1.1.2014 or later
  • live in Eastern Finland

Research setting includes a two-part-survey quality of life survey (2017; 2018), four interventions between surveys and their evaluation.

Local partners implement interventions in Kuopio and Joensuu between May 2017 and January 2018.

Group Intervention Project partner, service provider
No vocational qualifications and at risk of long-term unemployment Pilot on employability North Karelian Society for Social Security
Qualifications but at risk of not taking advantage of educational opportunities Pilot on education, MAMUEF University of Eastern Finland
Caring responsibilities leading to barriers to language acquisition Pilot on language (for women) Setlementti Puijola, Multicultural Center Kompassi and City of Kuopio, Immigrant Unit

Young adults at risk of social exclusion

Pilot on participation Contemporary Art Festival ANTI

New Start Finland! research team

Subproject Leader, Professor Janet Anand
Project Researcher Tiina Ahonen
Project Researcher Reeta Kankaanpää
Project Researcher Csilla Veszteg
Project Manager Maija Hartikainen

Publications and materials

Borrman, S., Anand, J. Schuster-Graig, J. Frost, C. Integration or Inclusion. Defining Terms in the Context of Refugee Resettlement and Right Wing Populism, (2017). Social Dialogue, Issue 17, pp.15-18.

Anand, J. Ahonen, T. and Veszteg, C. Populism and second language acquisition amongst. Middle Eastern women living in Eastern Finland, (2017). Social Dialogue, Issue 17, pp.21-26.