SPHERU engages in population health research – the study of social factors contributing to the well-being of various groups within the population.

Welcome to SPHERU

The Saskatchewan Population Health and Evaluation Research Unit is a bi-university health research unit based at the Universities of Regina and Saskatchewan. Since 1999, SPHERU has established itself as a leader in cutting edge population health research that not only looks at what and the why of health inequities -– but also how to address these and take action.

What’s Happening at SPHERU

Addressing mental health in the court system

Dr. Michelle Stewart and her graduate student Brittany Mario are raising awareness about people with mental illnesses and intellectual disabilities in the justice system.   In a recent Feature Story on the University of Regina’s website, the pair, and team of undergraduates, were recognized for the research they conducted into the number of people with serious mental illness and cognitive disabilities, including fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), in the justice system. The 88-page report is called, “Confronting the Challenge-- Community Supports, Stability and the Role of the Mental Health Disposition Court.”   There are two Mental Health Disposition Courts, one located in Regina and the other in Saskatoon. The court meets twice a month to focus on cases for individuals with intellectual disabilities and/or mental health issues. Since 2013, the courts have heard nearly 80 cases and have closed 36 of them. Of those 36 cases, most of the individuals have resulted in a “community-based disposition.” Only five individuals have received a sentence to serve in prison. Dr. Stewart and co-investigator, Mario, have recommendations for the system, including providing resources to hire a fulltime psychologist, coordinator, legal aid, affordable housing and other resources to assist with mental health challenges. For the full University of Regina’s feature story on Dr. Stewart and her team, click here. For the full report, click here. 

SHRF publication launches in Saskatoon

SPHERU’s Dr. Sylvia Abonyi and Dr. Sarah Oosman were among the researchers recognized for their contributions to older adults’ health research in the province on Monday. On April 10, the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation launched their latest publication in the PAC on the University of Saskatchewan campus in Saskatoon. The new publication, Impacting Seniors’ Health – The Value of Aging-Related Research in Saskatchewan, highlighted the contributions of many researchers in the province whose work has made a difference for older adults’ health. Dr. Abonyi and Dr. Oosman were not the only SPHERU faculty recognized in this publication. Last week, Dr. Bonnie Jeffery and Dr. Shanthi Johnson were also highlighted during the launch at the University of Regina. Read SHRF’s recent publication here. 

Aspirations for aging in place

While speaking at a conference on Friday, Dr. Sarah Oosman and Dr. Sylvia Abonyi reminded health professionals to keep a patient’s culture and circumstances in mind when providing care or services. During their presentation, Aspirations for Aging in Place: Implications for the Healthcare of Rural and Remote Older Adults, Oosman spoke about creating cultural humility within health care environments. Oosman called for professionals to take into consideration their own cultural background, how it impacts their personal philosophy and how that may affect the individuals they’re treating. Abonyi relayed a story about a woman she has worked alongside for a number of years, named Marie from Isle-a-la-Crosse. As an older adult, Marie lives with her husband and they are very well entrenched within their community, being part of the lives of their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Abonyi noted that when people from remote and rural communities, like Marie, are unable to make scheduled appointments, professionals must also take into consideration the amount of resources and time it takes for those people to make those appointments. Professionals may also need to coordinate scheduled appointments, or find other methods of remote health care to ensure individuals are receiving the care they need. Oosman and Abonyi made their presentation during the Transforming the Care of Older Adults Through Interpersonal Teams conference at the Sheraton Cavalier Hotel in Saskatoon on April 7. The purpose of the conference was to provide sessions on an interprofessional approach to patient/client/family centred care for older adults. Other sessions included pain assessment and management, interprofessional care teams and end of life care.  SPHERU’s Dr. Bonnie Jeffery was also part of the planning committee that put the two-day conference together. 

SPHERU faculty recognized at SHRF unveiling

SPHERU’s Dr. Bonnie Jeffery and Dr. Shanthi Johnson were invited to the launch of the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation’s (SHRF) latest publication, Impacting Seniors’ Health – The Value of Aging-Related Research in Saskatchewan.   On April 5, researchers associated with the Centre on Aging and health at the University of Regina, and other researchers who have benefited from funding provided by SHRF, attended the event dedicated to unveiling the new publication. The purpose of the event was also to demonstrate and highlight the work being done by researchers that has been making a difference for older adults' health due to SHRF funding.. The 32-page publication focuses on the aging-related health research and projects that exist due to SHRF funding and investments. Read more about the U of R story here. Dr. Jeffery and Dr. Johnson were among the researchers recognized for their contributions and work towards making a difference in seniors’ health and aging0related health research.  SHRF will be unveiling the publication in Saskatoon on Monday, April 10. 

Banning unhealthy food advertising to kids

SPHERU’s Dr. Rachel Engler-Stringer joined the Heart and Stroke Foundation last week in talking about how the food and beverage industry are marketing unhealthy options to children in Canada. On Feb. 1, the Heart and Stroke Foundation released their annual report entitled, “The kids are not alright. How the food and beverage industry is marketing our children and youth to death.” Dr. Engler-Stringer and Fleur Macqueen Smith, director of government relations and health promotion of the Saskatchewan Heart and Stroke Foundation, appeared on Global News Regina and Global News Saskatoon to explain the effects food and beverage advertising have on children and their families. During her appearance on the Global Regina News Morning Show, Dr. Engler-Stringer explained that since 1979, obesity rates in children have tripled in Canada. “What the Heart and Stroke Foundation is calling for, and I agree with, is a ban on advertising of food and beverages to children under the age of 16,” Dr. Engler-Stringer said.   According to the report, research shows that 90 per cent of all food and beverage advertising to children is promoting unhealthy food, high in salt, sugar and fat. The Heart and Stroke Foundation also commissioned a poll to determine how Canadians felt about advertising to children. Many parents felt as though the odds were stacked against them when it came to advertising, Dr. Engler-Stringer said. A prime example of limiting food advertising to children is what’s currently happening in Quebec. In 1980, Quebec implemented a complete ban on advertising to children under the age of 13. As a result, Quebec children, particularly francophone children, have lower rates of fast food consumption as well as one of the lowest obesity rates in Canada. For more information, check out Dr. Engler-Stringer and Fleur Macqueen Smith’s interviews on Global News Morning Regina, Global News Morning Saskatoon and Global Saskatoon Evening News.

SPHERU and a "Healthy Start"

Recently, SPHERU was approached to collaborate with the Healthy Start/Départ Santé team as they move into the next phase of their early childhood initiative. Healthy Start/Départ Santé is a bilingual initiative intended to encourage healthy eating and physical activity for children aged three to five. The initiative originated from a partnership of individuals and organizations that wanted to include an early years component to the Saskatoon Health Region’s in-motion program. The initiative is being implemented throughout Saskatchewan and New Brunswick and is funded in part by the Saskatchewan Community Initiatives Fund and through the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Innovation Strategy “Achieving Healthier Weights in Canadian Communities” .  On Jan. 18, co-ordinators, community partners and policy makers gathered at the Healthy Start/Départ Santé Symposium in Saskatoon to share and reveal how healthy eating and physical activity have an immediate and long term impact on children into adulthood.   SPHERU director Dr. Nazeem Muhajarine was invited to deliver closing remarks at the Symposium, emphasizing on the next objectives of the initiative. “It comes down to sustainability,” Muhajarine said. “We have to be able to sustain this. And please advocate for this, please stay engaged, please innovate and please practice what you know to be right and true.” HSDS Phase 2 (2013-2017) implemented the initiative in more than 300 child care centres throughout Saskatchewan and New Brunswick. As the initiative moves into Phase 3, HSDS plans to utilize SPHERU’s assistance to look at the results of the previous phase. Together, SPHERU and the HSDS team will be exploring the assessment of the HSDS knowledge, development and exchange (KDE) and partnership engagement work that occurred during the past four years. SPHERU will also be looking at the results of implementing and evaluating the initiative in supporting further dissemination. SPHERU’s Dr. Gabriela Novotna and Dr. Muhajarine will be working with the HSDS team during this collaboration. SPHERU faculty, including Dr. Rachel Engler-Stringer had previously contributed to the nutrition assessment of Phase 2 of the HSDS initiative.  Healthy Start is led by the Réseau Santé en français de la Saskatchewan; and partnered with the University of Saskatchewan including the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, College of Medicine; College of Kinesiology; College of Pharmacy & Nutrition. Other Healthy Start partners include the Centre de formation médicale du N-B, (Université de Sherbrooke et de Moncton, New Brunswick); Saskatchewan Early Childhood Association (SECA); the Saskatchewan Prevention Institute;  Active Kids/Jeunes actifs, New Brunswick; Association des parents fransaskois (APF); ECE Colleges in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick; and the Ministries of Education and Health in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick.   

Photo Credit(s):
Northern and Aboriginal Health (SPHERU staff), Rural Health (Carolyn Tran), Intervention Research (Hilary Gough), Healthy Children (Thilina Bandara), History of Health Inequities (Saskatchewan Archives Board)