IPPH Featured Research Profiles: Pathways to Health Equity and Population Health Intervention Research (PHIR)

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research distributes federal health research dollars through 13 virtual institutes that champion specific aspects of health. Institutes often partner to fund initiatives of mutual interest or support work of interest to multiple institutes. Many CIHR institutes – including IPPH – fund projects that aim to improve population health and reduce health inequities.


Project: Positive Spaces, Healthy Places: Closing the KTE circle

Funding type: Dissemination events (Priority announcement: HIV/AIDS)
Principal investigator: Sean Rourke, Ontario HIV Treatment Network (Toronto, ON)

Researchers shared findings of the Positive Spaces, Healthy Places study, which is Canada’s first longitudinal community-based research initiative to look at housing stability among people living with HIV. Dissemination events included a plenary session at the Ontario HIV Treatment Networks annual research conference, a community-oriented event at the conference, presentations at each study site, a capacity building session with AIDS service organizations in Ontario and a policy forum that brought together policy makers from the health and housing systems.

Project: A mixed method evaluation of a supportive housing intervention for people living with HIV and at risk of homelessness

Funding type: Operating Grant (Priority Announcement: Population Health Intervention Research)
Principal investigator: Robert Hogg, Simon Fraser University (Burnaby, BC);
Project lead: Surita Parashar, Simon Fraser University (Burnaby, BC)

This project will evaluate the impact of a new supportive housing complex for people living with HIV in BC, recently launched by McLaren Housing Society of BC. Residents of the Howe street building will be asked to enroll in a longitudinal cohort study in which their experiences and health outcomes will be captured through a survey and compared with a control arm comprised of people who meet the eligibility criteria for Howe Street, but who did not secure a unit due to capacity limitations. The bi-annual survey will be administered for two years and contextualized with in-depth qualitative interviews.

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Project: Exploring the transition out of youth homelessness

Funding type: CIHR Café Scientifique Program
Principal investigator: Jeff Karabanow, Dalhousie University (Halifax, N.S.)

Housing and homelessness experts spent an informal evening with Nova Scotia residents discussing the challenges faced by homeless youth trying to get off the street. Researchers shared preliminary findings of a study that looked at the experiences of young people attempting to leave a life of street involvement in Halifax.

Food insecurity

Project: Monitoring and supporting Arctic char distribution program for pregnant women in Nunavik to improve maternal and child nutrition

Funding type: Operating Grant (Priority Announcement: Population Health Intervention Research)
Principal investigator: Michel Lucas, Laval University (Laval, QC)

Researchers will evaluate the acceptability and efficiency of a risk-reduction program in Nunavik that involves community nurses distributing Arctic char to pregnant women living along the Hudson Bay. This program aims to limit consumption of other fish which are higher in mercury and other contaminants.

Project: The good food junction: A community-based food intervention to reduce nutritional health inequities

Funding type: Operating Grant (Priority Announcement: Population Health Intervention Research)
Principal investigator: Rachel Engler-Stringer, University of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon, SK)
Co-Principal Investigator: Nazeem Muhajarine

Researchers are studying the early health impacts of the opening of a full service grocery store in a 'food desert' in order to understand how neighbourhoods can be transformed into healthy food environments for all.

For more information please visit the project website.

Project: Household food insecurity, childhood stunting and maternal overweight and their correlates among fisher families in Bolivia’s Amazon Basin

Funding type: Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate Scholarship (Master’s Award)
Principal investigator: Sophia Baker-French, University of British Columbia (Vancouver, B.C.)

The master’s student worked with Bolivian and Canadian research partners to survey fisher families in the northern Bolivia Amazon Basin to determine household food insecurity and nutritional status of women and children in region. The survey was administered in two seasons to determine household food insecurity, including dietary diversity, at different times of the year.

Project: Pulling together for health: Assessing and developing sustainable food security interventions in First Nations

Funding type: Planning Grant (Priority Announcement: First Nations, Inuit or Metis Planning Activities)
Principal investigator: Malek Batal, University of Ottawa (Ottawa, ON)

Twenty six delegates from First Nation communities and leadership (Assembly of First Nations, Chiefs of Ontario, First Nations Health Authority, Nishnawbe Aski Nation, and Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs), academia (University of Ottawa, University of Montreal and University of Alberta) and non-governmental organizations (Food Secure Canada, Farm to cafeteria-Canada, and Plenty Canada) as well as representative from Health Canada convened for a 2-day meeting in Montreal to review current knowledge regarding food security in First Nations communities and to set research priorities for future grant proposals.


Project: Active streets, active people – junior: An integrated community partnership to enhance physical activity and active transport to school in children and youth

Funding type: Operating Grant (Priority Announcement: Population Health Intervention Research)
Principal investigator: Heather McKay, University of British Columbia (Vancouver, BC)

Researchers are working with the City of Vancouver and the school community to evaluate whether a 'mobility-friendly' redesign of the built environment impacts youth fitness, neighbourhood perception and barriers to adopting healthy behaviours.

Project: Community-based participatory research: Working in partnership with First Nations communities

Funding type: Dissemination events (Priority announcement: First Nations, Inuit and Metis health)
Principal investigator: Lola Baydala, University of Alberta (Edmonton, AB)

Researchers developed and facilitated a workshop at the 2012 International Meeting on Indigenous Child Health about lessons learned while implementing a culturally adapted school-based drug and alcohol prevention program in the Maskwacis Cree Nations.

Project: Embedding interventions within early childhood education programs for preschoolers at risk for mental health problems: an evidence-to-policy realist review

Funding type: Knowledge Synthesis Grant
Principal investigator: Normand Carrey, IWK Health Centre (Halifax, NS)

Researchers will analyze and synthesize literature on mental health interventions within early childhood care to determine what interventions work, for who and under what circumstances.

Chronic diseases

Project: Provincial and territorial obesity strategies: Developing a community of practice

Funding type: Planning Grant (Priority Announcement: Partnerships for Health System Improvement)
Principal investigator: Canadian Obesity Network (Edmonton, AB), Ximena Ramos Salas, Arya M. Sharma

The Canadian Obesity Network - an NGO of over 9,500 professionals interested in obesity prevention and management - will organize an exchange workshop with decision makers, practitioners and researchers to share knowledge and best practices for developing obesity prevention and management strategies. The forum will inform the development of a community of practice that can collaborate in the development of obesity prevention and management strategies for Canada.

Project: Design and Evaluation of a mHealth Behavioural Intervention for the Self-Management of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus

Funding type: eHealth Innovations Catalyst Grant
Principal investigator: Joseph Cafazzo, University Health Network (Toronto, ON)

A randomized controlled trial sees 150 patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus placed into two groups: a control group that receives usual care and an experimental group given a mobile phone application hooked up to an activity monitor, weight scale and glucometer in addition to usual care. Researchers are examining whether the mobile phone application, which is designed to help people understand how their lifestyle affects their blood glucose control, allows people with type 2 diabetes mellitus to more effectively manage their condition.

Project: Self-management supports for disadvantaged populations: Developing a common agenda across diverse fields of research, policy and practice

Funding type: Planning Grant (Priority Announcement: Health Services and Policy Research)
Principal investigator: Susan Mills, University of British Columbia (Vancouver, BC)

Researchers will host a one-day workshop with experts in research, policy and practice in self-management support for disadvantaged populations. The meeting will include participants from primary and community-based care; health literacy; mental health; Aboriginal health; low income, aging, ethnic minority, immigrant and refugee populations; and men’s and women’s health who will share knowledge and experience in order to identify key self-management support issues facing these groups. A concept mapping process will be used to develop a common strategic plan for developing future self-management support research, policy and practice initiatives to better meet the needs of disadvantaged populations with chronic diseases who need to manage their conditions on a daily basis in the context of enormous health and social challenges.

Project: Physician recommendations for cancer screening: examining the role of physician perceptions of health literacy language proficiency and culture

Funding type: CIHR Fellowship
Principal investigator: Maria Thomson, University of Waterloo (Waterloo, ON)

The research fellow is interviewing physicians to identify barriers to communicating with patients about cancer screening and to better understand whether patient culture, gender, health literacy or English-language proficiency influences whether physicians talk to patients about cancer screening.

Project: Collaborative community-based research in Northern Quebec: Intersectoral planning for healthy communities

Funding type: Planning Grant (Priority Announcement: First Nations, Inuit or Metis Planning Activities)
Principal investigator: Mary Ellen Macdonald, Faculty of Dentistry, McGill University (Montreal, QC)

Researchers will meet with First Nations and Inuit community members in northern Quebec to explore and prioritize health and related community development issues in order to establish short- and long-term priorities for improving health outcomes and services in the region.

Environments (natural and built)

Project: Out and about: The association between the built environment and older adults’ mobility and health

Funding type: Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate Scholarship (Doctoral Award)
Principal investigator: Anna Chudyk, University of British Columbia (Vancouver, B.C.)

The doctoral student is examining the association between the built environment and the health and mobility (physical activity and travel behaviour) of older adults with low-income residing in Metro Vancouver.

Project: Developing research priorities and disseminating knowledge about pesticide and other agricultural exposures and select cancers

Funding type: Dissemination events
Principal investigator: Shelley Harris, Cancer Care Ontario (Toronto, ON)
Contact, Project Manager: Manisha Pahwa

Researchers hosted a one-day knowledge exchange workshop that engaged over a dozen stakeholders from policy, agriculture, industry, and risk communication. Stakeholders described their knowledge needs and an iterative, facilitated process was used to inform future research priorities for a joint study of exposure to pesticides, other agricultural factors, and the risk of developing certain cancers (the North American Pooled Project). Stakeholders also presented how epidemiologic studies are considered in pesticide regulation and in the field, giving participants an enriched understanding of how to tailor exposure reduction and prevention messages.

Project: Healthy by design: Can urban design improve health care?

Funding type: CIHR Journalism Award
Principal investigator: Lesley Evans Ogden

The freelance journalist is reporting on the interface between public health, urban planning and architecture with a focus on active transportation and its infrastructure.

Project: Pathways to weight: The influence of neighbourhood environments on the weight status of adults

Funding type: Operating Grant
Principal investigator: Gavin McCormack, University of Calgary (Calgary, AB)

Researchers are distributing surveys and body measuring tapes to a cross-section of Calgary residents to learn about their physical activity, eating habits and body composition. Geographical information derived from municipal databases and field audits of steetscapes will be linked to survey data to investigate the extent to which neighbourhood environments support physical activity and healthy eating and promote healthy weight.

Project: Fluoridation discontinuation in Calgary: A natural experiment to identify implications for child oral health and oral health equity

Funding type: Operating Grant (Priority Announcement: Population Health Intervention Research)
Principal investigator: Lindsay McLaren, University of Calgary (Calgary, AB)

Researchers are collecting data on oral health of Calgary children following the discontinuation of drinking water fluoridation. Data will be compared to data collected while drinking water was fluoridated and to data collected in Edmonton, AB where drinking water is still fluoridated.

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