CIHR@15 – Canadian Institutes of Health Research Annual Report 2014‑15

Working Together – Examples of Collaboration

“CIHR has been an extraordinary partner to work with. They have vast experience in health research and have brought bold and innovative ideas to our joint research-to-practice project under the Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research. There is no doubt that Canadian patients and their families will benefit greatly from our partnership with CIHR.”

Tony Boeckh, Graham Boeckh Foundation

Over the past fifteen years, the health research landscape has changed significantly in Canada and throughout the world.

Today, health research has become more collaborative, involving a multitude of disciplines and stakeholders. Health research has also become increasingly focused on patients – the voices, needs and experiences of patients are informing the direction of the health research agenda.

CIHR has emerged as a leading voice and champion of this evolution in health research by encouraging collaborative, multi-disciplinary research. CIHR has also been a leader in creating and promoting research partnerships – both within Canada and with countries throughout the world.

In 2014-15, CIHR worked hard to bring people together, combine resources and create impact for Canadian patients. Here are just a few examples of the partnerships, consortia and collaborations achieved over the past year.

SPOR – Putting patients first

CIHR’s largest collaborative effort is the Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR) – a coalition of federal, provincial, and territorial partners all dedicated to moving research results to the front lines of health care.

Through SPOR, we are supporting research that seeks to develop innovative diagnostic and therapeutic approaches – then moving those innovative approaches to hospitals and clinics in order to improve patient outcomes. In 2014-15, SPOR celebrated some significant achievements.

Supporting young people with mental illness

In Canada, one in five people experiences a mental illness in their lifetime. However, it is young Canadians that suffer the most, with 75% of mental health problems and illnesses beginning prior to the age of 25, and more than 50% beginning between the ages of 11 and 25. Unfortunately, adolescents and youth have the least access to mental health care, as existing services are designed mostly for younger children and older adults.

ACCESS Canada – the inaugural SPOR Network launched in 2014-15 – will seek to close this gap in health care. Supported through a partnership between CIHR and the Graham Boeckh Foundation, and with the involvement of young people, ACCESS Canada’s goal is to bring about positive change, within five years, to the way we care for youth and adolescents with mental illness. It will accomplish this by examining how young people fall through the cracks of our mental health care system, and find solutions to prevent this from happening.

SUPPORT (Support for People and Patient-Oriented Research and Trials) Units

For SPOR to be a truly pan-Canadian initiative, the provinces and territories must be engaged. The SPOR SUPPORT Units exemplify the spirit of federal-provincial-territorial collaboration.

SUPPORT Units are provincial or regional centres that connect patients, researchers, policy makers, funders, and health care professionals. Together, they seek solutions to local health care needs and ensure that new and innovative diagnostic and therapeutic approaches are applied when and where they are needed. The SUPPORT Units also work together across Canada to ensure that best practices are shared among jurisdictions for the benefit of Canadian patients.

These research hubs are being rolled out across the country. SUPPORT Units have now been announced in Alberta, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, the Maritimes (NB/NS/PEI), and Quebec, with more announcements to come in the near future.

Strengthening clinical trials

In Canada, clinical trials can be difficult and slow to put in place. The creation of the Canadian Clinical Trials Coordinating Centre (CCTCC) marked an important step forward in the effort to make Canada a more attractive place to conduct clinical trials.

The CCTCC will improve the coordination of clinical trial activities and streamline regulatory processes for companies and researchers. It is a collaboration between CIHR, Canada’s Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (Rx&D), and HealthCareCAN.

Treating and preventing HIV

Through the Canadian HIV Vaccine Initiative, CIHR teamed up with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to establish a joint research initiative that will seek to develop a vaccine for HIV.

Research teams comprising Canadian and international researchers will tackle critical research questions leading to a better understanding of how HIV enters the body and triggers immune responses.

CIHR also launched three research projects aimed at addressing HIV/AIDS health challenges affecting men. In Canada, men have a shorter average life expectancy than women, tend to access health care services less frequently, and experience higher mortality rates across many leading causes of death.

The CIHR Boys and Men’s Health Initiative will support projects that examine these issues in general, as well as in the specific context of HIV, with the ultimate goal of improving prevention, care and treatment. The initiative is a partnership between CIHR, the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research (CANFAR) and the Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN).

Maternal and child health

CIHR joined forces with the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD), and Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) to help ensure a brighter future for mothers and children in sub-Saharan Africa.

Through this initiative, 20 research teams will help identify, test and deliver practical, cost-effective solutions to improve maternal and child health in 13 countries across sub-Saharan Africa – a region of the world where maternal and child deaths remain unacceptably high.

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