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.
Whats Happening at SPHERU
This week (Dec. 1 to 7) is Health Research Week, a time when the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) encourages research partners to feature and promote health research in the province.
A lot has been happening at SPHERU of late, both within the organization and on our projects looking at the social determinants of health:
One of two SPHERU projects funded by a SHRF Phase III Group Grant, The Healthy Aging in Place study looks to identify effective interventions at the policy, community, and family levels that support healthy aging in place for both non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal seniors. Currently work is focused on further development of an assessment framework which was created to monitor these interventions. This past year, the team has presented at conferences and produced environmental scans for the communities of Ile-a-la-Crosse, Watrous, Wolseley and Young, as well as publishing journal articles in Educational Gerontology and The Journal of Rural Nursing and Health Care.
SPHERU’s other SHRF-funded project takes a historical perspective on public health and health care in Saskatchewan. The Origins and Import of Health Inequities in Saskatchewan 1905-1985 study looks at past patterns of health in Saskatchewan, how they have changed over time, and the effect of key medical, policy, and other interventions. Lately, the team has launched an online timeline that marks dates of significant health events in Saskatchewan’s history. We’ve also been Tweeting highlights from a 1913 Social Survey which presents a snapshot of life in Regina at the time. On top of this, Dr. James Daschuk’s book, Clearing The Plains, has been garnering positive reviews and even hit the bestseller list at McNally Robinson.
Another SPHERU research project is taking place in Saskatoon’s inner-city. The Good Food Junction, which opened in September 2012, is a 4,900-square-foot, full-service not-for-profit grocery store containing a full range of fresh, frozen and packaged foods. It is located in a low-income “food desert” neighbourhood in Saskatoon. The research team has been working on two surveys, a health questionnaire and a demographic survey. The goal of this two-year study is to understand and model how the introduction of this large community-based food program affects the health of individuals and families.
SPHERU has also undergone some administrative changes, with Dr. Nazeem Muhajarine accepting the role of Director for a five-year term to 2018. Dr. Tom McIntosh, who had filled the position of Interim Director after Dr. Bonnie Jeffery’s term ended, is serving as Associate Director. He will also act as SPHERU’s point person for the University of Regina side of the unit for the year. We’ve also moved our Saskatoon office. After several years at Innovation Place, we’re back on the main campus. The address is 3rd Floor, E Wing, Health Sciences Building, 104 Clinic Place.
For more information on these or other SPHERU projects, check out the Research Projects section of our website where you can browse by theme area or researcher, or use the Google search bar.
The Healthy Aging in Place team had a journal article looking at the perceptions of rural adults this fall published online in the journal Educational Gerontology.
The piece was authored by SPHERU’s Juanita Bacsu, Bonnie Jeffery, Sylvia Abonyi, Shanthi Johnson, Nuelle Novik, Diane Martz and Sarah Oosman.
The article highlights that initiatives around healthy aging in place have traditionally been built around the views of health professionals, the research community or those that make policy.
Through interviews with 40 older adults, this article sheds light on the perspectives of rural seniors themselves. The participants lived in Watrous and Wollesley, Sask., and were interviewed between September 2011 and August 2012.
The study's results found the rural older adults situated healthy aging in place within a more holistic context of health instead of merely the more traditional biomedical approach.
Rather than explicitly defining what healthy aging in place meant to them, some focused on the challenges of healthy aging, especially challenges such as cognitive decline and the loss of mobility. Rural seniors' perceptions of healthy aging in place stressed the importance of social interaction with friends and family, staying active, retaining independence over one’s life, keeping a positive mental outlook as well as mental sharpness.
The study highlights the need for local input from seniors as well as the importance of cultural context when developing interventions that will support healthy aging in place. As the article concludes, “In conducting rural healthy aging research, the importance of community-level input and understanding rural seniors' perspectives cannot be overstated.”
Dr. James Daschuk’s book Clearing The Plains (University of Regina Press) has made it onto the longlist for a prestigious non-fiction book prize.
It was just announced that his book chronicling disease, politics, starvation and the loss of Aboriginal life on the Prairies is one of 10 books up for the BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction, one of Canada’s largest literary non-fiction prizes.
Forty-six publishers across Canada submitted 141 books for consideration for the $40,000 prize.
Among the other nominees on the longlist are: The Massey Murder: A Maid, Her Master, and the Trial that Shocked a Country (HarperCollins Canada) by Charlotte Gray; Nocturne: On the Life and Death of My Brother (HarperCollins) by Helen Humphreys; The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America (Doubleday) by Thomas King; and The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914 (Penguin Canada) by Margaret MacMillan.
"This longlist is an excellent testimony to the impressive quality of non-fiction writing in Canada,” BC Achievement Foundation chair Keith Mitchell said in a news release. “Its diversity is exciting, showing the breadth of topics and questions that are relevant to this time in history. Our heartfelt thanks to the jury panel."
The jury for the award is made up of Jared Bland, books editor at The Globe and Mail and former senior editor at House of Anansi; Daphne Bramham, columnist for The Vancouver Sun and finalist in 2008 for the award; and Anna Porter, award-winning novelist, non-fiction writer and book publisher.
The shortlist for the BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction will be announced on Dec. 11, and the award will be presented in Vancouver in early 2014. Past winners include: Charlotte Gill, John Vaillant, Ian Brown and Noah Richler.
The Saskatchewan Population Health and Evaluation Research Unit is pleased to announce the addition of two more faculty members to its ranks.
The unit added Dr. Sarah Oosman and Dr. Rachel Engler-Stringer for five-year terms, effective as of Nov. 1, 2013.
"I am very pleased that Dr Oosman and Dr Engler-Stringer have joined our group. Their expertise and skills not only complement and round out our research but they are also extremely energetic and passionate about the research they do. We expect great things from Sarah and Rachel,” SPHERU Director Dr. Nazeem Muhajarine.
Recently, Dr. Oosman has worked with SPHERU as a post-doctoral fellow and has been collaborating on the Healthy Aging in Place project, working with Métis communities. She is an assistant professor in the School of Physical Therapy at the University of Saskatchewan, and is a member Canadian Obesity Network and manuscript reviewer for the Canadian Journal of Public Health.
She received her Bachelor of Science in physiology and physiotherapy from the University of Saskatchewan and her Masters of Science in physiology at the University of British Columbia before returning to Saskatchewan for her PhD.
She has worked in private physiotherapy practice as well as within the Saskatoon Health Region.
Her research interests include: Aboriginal health; Intervention research, Culture-based and culturally relevant research; Community-based participatory action research; Health promotion; Mixed research methods (quantitative and qualitative); Population health; Obesity prevention; Type 2 Diabetes; Chronic conditions; and both Intergenerational and interdisciplinary approaches to health promotion.
Dr. Engler-Stringer is also joining the faculty. She is Co-Principal Investigator with Nazeem Muhajarine on the CIHR and SHRF-funded Smart Cities Healthy Kids Food Environment study and The Good Food, Healthy Families research. She is also the Vice-President of the Canadian Association for Food Studies.
Engler-Stringer is an assistant professor in Community Health and Epidemiology at the University of Saskatchewan.
She attended the Université de Montréal for her Bachelor of Science in biology with a specialization in biomedical sciences, then completed her graduate studies in nutrition at the University of Saskatchewan. She was also a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, at Université de Montréal.
Her research interests include: Food systems and food security; Nutritional health inequalities; Health promotion; and Participatory research.
SPHERU’s history project team is using new technology to tell an old story – the history of public health and health care in the province.
Recently, it launched the pilot of a new tool, a timeline that outlines many historical markers concerning health and related issues in Saskatchewan. Work on the timeline began in 2012, and it’s based on the data collection that supports SPHERU’s team grant project, The History of public health and health care in Saskatchewan: The origins and import of health inequities in Saskatchewan 1905-1985.
“The idea has been batted around for quite some time,” says Dr. Paul Hackett, the project lead.
SPHERU staff member Tara Todd was then able to find software that would support a site where information could be uploaded and made accessible to the public.
The format is also easy for users to understand, as people are familiar with the format. The timeline includes milestones of health and its social determinants, including the Spanish flu epidemic in 1918, the opening of the Weyburn Mental Hospital in 1921, polio vaccinations in 1955 and the 1961 Hall Report on health care services.
The team sees it as an educational tool or resource, and they have the ability to set up multiple timelines for specific topics – for example, around data on infectious diseases or Dr. Gloria DeSantis’s work on community-based organizations, or Dr. Tom McIntosh’s work on policy.
“It’s a very useful tool that we can exploit,” Hackett says.
The goal, he adds, is to expand the site, as the team mines more health data from Saskatchewan’s past. “It’ll get much richer as we go,” Hackett adds.
The project was made possible with the help of the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation, as well as the University of Regina and the University of Saskatchewan. The Saskatchewan Archives Board contributed photographs.
Through her research, SPHERU’s Nuelle Novik has found that many seniors face a challenge when it comes to getting proper meals.
Recently, she helped spearhead a community workshop in Regina to look at this issue of food security for older residents in the city. (The Oct. 8 event, Bridging Community Connections: Creating Solutions to Address Seniors’ Food Security, was featured in the Leader-Post.)
The event took place at the Core Ritchie Neighbourhood Centre and attracted 76 people, including nearly 20 seniors. There were also students from social work, nursing and nutrition, Saskatchewan Seniors Mechanism, the Seniors’ Centre, the Lifelong Learning Centre, representatives from various agencies and two provincial government policy analysts.
“The Food Bank and REACH (Regina Education and Action on Child Hunger) were already planning to meet with their staff to begin to initiate some program changes based on our preliminary findings,” Novik says.
The workshop examined some common themes that seniors expressed when it comes to food security in Regina, as well as what more can be done in terms of policy, practice and research.
Other topics on the agenda included a workshop with seniors to support their mental health and an interactive café to brainstorm ideas on how to improve food security.
Novik says the next step is planning for a few small community presentations over the next few months.
The workshop was presented by the University of Regina Faculty of Social Work, the Regina Community Food Bank, REACH, North Central Community Association, and Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region. It was the result of a one-year Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Research Grant.