Mobility Consensus Conference (2002)

Executive Summary

Approximately 13% of people over 60 years of age not living in institutions have mobility impairments and this proportion increases to about 30% by the age of 80. Most seniors in institutions are mobility-impaired. Quality of life indicators such as "living alone", "poor income" and "poor social support" are strongly associated with mobility problems. This finding combined with a strong association with poor health status indicators ("increased physician visits", "higher use of psychoactive drugs"), suggests a high level of interdependence between mobility and an individual's health and quality of life.

Opportunities for mobility research can be focused on the Person (e.g. the individual's fitness level, or a specific impairment, i.e. musculoskeletal disorders such as osteoarthritis), the Environment in which the Person lives (e.g. the buildings s/he inhabits or the social policies that shape her/his access to resources) and the interface between them (e.g. strategies to maximize the individual's reintegration into society following an injury). Some areas were thought to have more leverage potential than others, e.g. Research into effective methods of improving fitness levels in ALL Canadians is likely to have a great effect on preventing mobility problems, improving and maintaining mobility, as well as minimizing the impact of chronicity. Other high leverage possibilities include: rehabilitation, new and innovative assistive technologies, innovative falls prevention, public and personal transportation, knowledge transfer and policy generation.

Progress in the field of mobility research will depend on significant human resource/capacity building that will require enhanced training program enrolment in a number of fields dedicated to mobility.

The primary recommendations of the workshop for consideration by the CIHR institutes were:

  • Consider identifying "Maintaining and Improving Health through Physical Activity, Mobility and Fitness" as a cross-cutting priority theme for all Institutes.
  • Emphasize the importance of Interdisciplinary collaboration to the success of mobility research initiatives and include a requirement for involving consumers and policy-makers.
  • Expand CIHR partnerships to include Transport Canada, Ministry of Housing, Health Canada.
  • Engage in a targeted program to provide opportunity and support for mobility research by:
    • Identifying mobility-related proposals within targeted priority announcements including:
      • Strategies to identify and remove barriers to active living.
      • Identification of indicators/predictors of mobility that may be addressed by prevention and rehabilitation strategies.
      • Best strategies for knowledge translation to inform users and prescribers of developments in assistive technology.
      • Projects (not necessarily hypothesis-driven) to develop new assistive technologies.
  • Encouraging the formation of New Emerging Teams (NETs) to address:
    • The determinants, interventions and outcomes associated with mobility problems.
    • Technology to improve environmental accessibility and personal mobility.
    • Long-term strategies that address the chronicity of mobility problems and include health promotion, secondary prevention and multifaceted rehabilitation approaches.
  • Expanding the number of Training Program Grants to build doctoral stream and post-doctoral interdisciplinary research programs, provide policy research practicum support, and provide enhanced retraining opportunities for rehabilitation, biomedical and social scientists.
  • Enhancing the Proof of Principle (POP) program by doubling both the maximum funding level and duration of support in order to increase technology transfer
  • Calling for proposals for Community Alliance Health Research (CAHR) programs to:
    • Identify the costs and benefits of disability supports
    • Improve transportation for mobility-impaired Canadians in rural and urban settings
  • Creating a Policy Research Program, modelled after the Status of Women in Canada fund, to enable researchers to spend time working alongside government, learning about the setting of policy and informing policy makers about issues related to mobility, disability and health
  • Creating a program of Lay Grants to provide small grants in support of non-academics (often people with disabilities) to work with researchers in the development of proposals.

    Regarding the 4 priority recommendations, they are:

    1. Consider identifying "Maintaining and Improving Health through Physical Activity, Mobility and Fitness" as a cross-cutting priority theme for all Institutes.
    2. Engage in a targeted program to provide opportunity and support for mobility research by:
      • Identifying mobility-related proposals within targeted priority announcements including:
        • Strategies to identify and remove barriers to active living
        • Identification of indicators/predictors of mobility that may be addressed by prevention and rehabilitation strategies
        • Best strategies for knowledge translation to inform users and prescribers of developments in assistive technology
        • Projects (not necessarily hypothesis-driven) to develop new assistive technologies
    3. Expanding the number of Training Program Grants to build doctoral stream and post-doctoral interdisciplinary research programs, provide policy research practicum support, and provide enhanced retraining opportunities for rehabilitation, biomedical and social scientists.
    4. Enhancing the Proof of Principle (POP) program by doubling both the maximum funding level and duration of support in order to increase technology transfer
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