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

“Clearing the Plains” influences worldwide

SPHERU’s Dr. Jim Daschuk, and his best-selling academic book “Clearing the Plains,” have been gaining attention across Canada and worldwide. University of Regina Press director Bruce Walsh appeared on the CBC Saskatchewan Morning Show on Nov. 29 to discuss how influential the book has become, including being listed by the Literary Review of Canada as one of the 25 most influential Canadian books of the past 25 years. Daschuk’s book chronicles the history of disease, politics, starvation and the loss of Aboriginal life on the Prairies, as well as the role that the federal government, particularly under Prime Minister John A. Macdonald, played. While the history of the Prairies was known to historians, the broad story had yet to be told before the book was published, Walsh said. “We pretend that isn’t who we are as Canadians -- that we’re nice people, that nothing bad ever happened here,” he said. The radio segment starts off with a few brief comments from Michael Langan, an entrepreneur, who founded Colonialism Skateboards based on Daschuk’s research. “I like to call it my bible just because there’s so much information and history in this book and it inspired me to share some for that information in the book with other people,” Langan said. During the nearly 10-minute segment, Walsh noted that “Clearing the Plains” had been mentioned in a New York Times op-ed by Stephen Marche, which comments on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s relationship with Indigenous people and the environment. Daschuk’s book has also gone on to win a number of other awards including the Governor General’s History Award, the Sir John A. Macdonald Prize as well as six Saskatchewan Book Awards. For the full radio piece, visit CBC Saskatchewan’s website. 

Muhajarine contributes to new CIW report

SPHERU director Dr. Nazeem Muhajarine contributed to policy recommendations made in the 2016 Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) National Report that was released Tuesday, Nov. 22.  Dr. Muhajarine was one of a select number of people invited to a policy workshop held by the CIW in September at the University of Waterloo. The 2016 Canadian Index of Wellbeing National Report compared the growth of the GDP and the wellbeing of Canadians during the past 21 years. According to the report, the GDP has grown by 38 per cent, while Canadian wellbeing has grown by only 9.9 per cent. That leaves a 28 per cent gap between how the economy is doing and how Canadians are faring in areas that matter to them.  Findings included: Living standards rose 23 per cent from 1994 until the 2008 recession, then plummeted almost 11 per cent. Now, despite an increase in median family incomes, more Canadians experience food and housing insecurity and employment is more precarious. Leisure and Culture is down 9 per cent. In 2014, household spending on culture and recreation was at its lowest point in the two decades measured. Canadians are spending less time away on vacation and participating or volunteering in leisure and cultural activities. Environmental progress declined by 2.9 per cent. Although residential energy use is down 20 per cent, there should be much more progress from industry. The time crunch is an ongoing challenge. We are spending almost 30 per cent less time with our friends. Our commute times to work are longer and only 35 per cent of us are getting enough sleep – down from 44 per cent in 1994. Life expectancy is up and ratings for mental health are slightly better, but Canadians’ overall health ratings are worse. Diabetes rates are two and half times higher than in 1994 and more than one in five people has a health or activity limitation. “A central theme that emerged from the discussions was inequality, not just in income, but in health, in access to community resources, and in opportunities for leisure and culture. In response, the group recommended policy directions that considered the impact on multiple domains of wellbeing – an innovative and integrated approach to policy that would create multiple benefits for Canadians and reaffirm their core values,” the 2016 CIW report states. The report makes specific recommendations for policy on different aspects of Canadian lives such as: ensuring a universal basic income through policy creating an "upstream" approach to health developing a Pan-Canadian education strategy For more recommendations and findings, or to read more about the third national CIW Canadian Wellbeing Report, visit www.ciw.ca.  Dr. Muhajarine also appeared on Global Saskatoon to speak more on the release of the report and the policy recommendations.    

Isolation evaluation project in Leader-Post

Recently, SPHERU researcher Dr. Bonnie Jeffery provided some insight into a current project on evaluating social isolation in Saskatchewan seniors for the Leader-Post.  The article entitled "Researchers look at effectiveness of programs to reduce senior isolation in Sask.," focused on the Enhancing Information Access for Rural and Urban Seniors initiative and how it will see project lead Dr. Bonnie Jeffery, along with Dr. Tom McIntosh and Dr. Nuelle Novik working with Saskatchewan agencies to evaluate programs to reduce social isolation in seniors. The article went on to say how the SPHERU team will be working with the Saskatchewan Seniors Mechanism, Alzheimer Society of Saskatchewan and Canadian Red Cross to determine the effectiveness of certain programs for rural and urban seniors. For example, the Alzheimer Society of Saskatchewan will create a dementia help line for families and friends affected by the disease, and also match people with dementia with friends in their communities, the article explains.   The initiative has received $504,241 from the Government of Canada's New Horizons for Seniors Program during the course of the next three years.  “The whole collection of these projects is really about addressing the contribution that older adults continue to make as they age and the supports that they need to be able to stay in their communities,” Dr. Jeffery said. Dr. Jeffery added that the study will draw attention to seniors living within urban centres while highlighting needs of rural and French speaking seniors. Find the full article on the Leader-Post website, here. 

Reducing social isolation in seniors

University of Regina researchers are collaborating with provincial agencies to evaluate the effectiveness of programs to reduce social isolation experienced by urban and rural seniors in central and southern Saskatchewan. The initiative is funded in part by the Government of Canada’s New Horizons for Seniors Program and will benefit from $504,241 over the next three years. “The Government of Canada is proud to support the University of Regina through the New Horizons for Seniors Program. With the rising senior population in Canada, our government understands the importance of supporting seniors who are or who may be at risk of becoming socially isolated. By joining forces with the University of Regina, we can help raise awareness about important services in place to reduce and prevent seniors’ social isolation.” – The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Through evaluation of existing programs, Enhancing Information Access for Rural and Urban Seniors will result in communities becoming more aware of the needs of seniors and prepared to address those needs. The evaluation will also determine how to strengthen seniors’ connections with others, and how to create services so seniors will be seen as valuable, contributing members of society. The evaluation is being conducted by the Saskatchewan Population Health and Evaluation Research Unit (SPHERU) at the University of Regina. Project lead Dr. Bonnie Jeffery, along with Dr. Tom McIntosh and Dr. Nuelle Novik, will form the Evaluation Oversight Committee, along with Dr. Chad Nilson of Living Skies Centre for Social Inquiry. The researchers will be partnering with three agencies who each have received funding for their projects: Saskatchewan Seniors Mechanism: is fighting ageism by creating a culture of inclusion with rural, small urban and Francophone communities to help them become age-friendly; reducing ageism by changing the way older adults are portrayed in Saskatchewan media. Alzheimer Society of Saskatchewan: is working with individuals, and urban and rural communities, to become dementia friendly; raising awareness about the warning signs of dementia and the importance of diagnosis. Canadian Red Cross – Saskatchewan: is providing friendly visiting for isolated older adults. Upon completion of the evaluation, SPHERU will present its findings and results at a one-day policy summit where policy and community representatives from Central and Southern Saskatchewan will be in attendance. SPHERU is a bi-university health research unit based at the University of Regina and the University of Saskatchewan, which focuses on intervention research; population, rural, northern health research; and history of health inequities. Contact info: Dr. Bonnie Jeffery at bonnie.jeffery@uregina.ca 

SPHERU researchers featured in magazine

SPHERU’S Dr. Michelle Stewart and Dr. Shanthi Johnson have been featured in the University of Regina’s new research magazine. The first issue of Discourse featured Dr. Michelle Stewart and her study on people living with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). In the article entitled “Bridging the gap: Research seeks to understand FASD,” the feature explores how FASD is understood, and how these interpretations can be improved and used to better support for people living with FASD.  “One of the big challenges is that it is predominantly an invisible disability,” Stewart said in Discourse. “You may not ‘look’ like you have a disability.” For the full feature on Dr. Stewart’s research, visit pages 9 to 11 in the Fall 2016/Winter 2017 issue of Discourse, available here.   Helping seniors age in place Discourse also focused on Dr. Shanthi Johnson and her award-winning work in a profile entitled, “Innovation Award: Impacting the lives of seniors.” The article notes that Johnson was awarded the 2016 Award of Innovation for her project, “Saskatchewan Advantage: Improving Functional Capacity and Preventing Falls Among Rural and Urban Seniors.” The project increased mobility and independence in seniors by teaching simple but effective physical exercises.  Because of this minor addition, seniors are able to stay in their homes longer as a result. The profile on Dr. Johnson and her study is available on page 7 in the Fall 2016/Winter 2017 issue of Discourse. 

Seniors voice concerns about falls

This summer, SPHERU researchers published an article in Educational Gerontology entitled “Voices of senior rural men and women on falls and fall-related injuries: ‘If I fall outside and get hurt, what would I do?’” SPHERU’s Dr. Shanthi Johnson -- along with Dr. Bonnie Jeffrey, Dr. Juanita Bacsu, Dr. Sylvia Abonyi and Dr. Nuelle Novik -- contributed to the study. The qualitative study examined the experiences of 42 rural seniors as it related to falls and fall-related injuries. Researchers analyzed the nature, causes and consequences of falls and injuries. “Falls are common and costly,” said Dr. Shanthi Johnson. “The study highlighted the nuanced variation in how falls are voiced and experienced by rural seniors.” A “fall” was described as a seniors’ life experience, ranging from a physical fall, a near or impending fall, or no fall with associated fear and other consequences. The study found that falls were not only common among elderly people but falls and almost-falls had various physical and psychological consequences. Seniors also tended to rely on support from family members and friends instead of turning to health professionals and the health care system. Researchers found that some seniors use adaptive strategies to avoid falls as opposed to well established fall prevention strategies. For example, some seniors may move their laundry to the main floor instead of using an established strategy such as exercise. The study also added a voice to the scarcity of research involving rural seniors and qualitative methodology, Dr. Johnson said. The full article can be viewed here: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03601277.2016.1205403

SPHERU Newsletter

Issue 13
Oct 2015

Q&A with researcher Dr. Rachel Engler-Stringer

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