Aboriginal Health Research News – February 2012

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Message from Dr. Malcolm King, IAPH Scientific Director

Dr. Malcolm KingOn February 1, 2012, I had the privilege of attending the National Colloquium on Racism, Cultural Safety and Aboriginal Peoples' Health, in Ottawa. This colloquium was organized by the Aboriginal Health Research Network Secretariat (AHRNetS) of the Network Environments for Aboriginal Health Research (NEAHR). The AHRNetS and the NEAHR centres are funded by the Institute of Aboriginal Peoples' Health to lead, advance and promote innovative research that will improve the health of Aboriginal Peoples.

Drs. Charlotte Reading (U. of Victoria) and Beverly Shea (U. of Ottawa) co-led this colloquium. Approximately 40 researchers and stakeholders met at the University of Ottawa to share findings on racism and health, to talk about the impact of systemic racism, to explore the use of 'cultural safety' as means to curb it, and to identify other policy and research options to tackle systemic racism.

The speakers and participants were very knowledgeable and thoughtful. I was very impressed with the overall meeting and I thought I would share some of my observations with you. The NEAHR investigators presented research findings that linked racism as a social determinant of Aboriginal Peoples' health in topics as diverse as Indigenous women and HIV/AIDS, Métis peoples' health, and end of life care in rural communities. National Aboriginal organizations presented on innovative programs and initiatives that they are currently engaged in to address racism in health care including cultural safety programs. Overall, I think it is fair to say that everyone recognized the immediate and long-term negative impacts of racism but that more research is needed to find effective ways to address the related issues in improving health of Aboriginal peoples and accessibility of health services.

This colloquium was an excellent first step towards tackling the health effects of systemic racism. I thank Drs. Shea and Reading for leading this meeting on an important and often neglected area of research. I look forward to reading the final proceedings and encourage you to also review them once available. I am sure that you will find something to nourish your thinking on this important problem in a different way.

This month, I also wanted to bring to your attention the most recent funding decisions posted on the CIHR website. As many of you know, IAPH funds priority announcements to stimulate excellent research in all areas of the mandate. In the September 2011 Open Operating Grant competition, we funded four outstanding researchers from four priority announcements.

One of these research stars is Dr. Sonia Anand of McMaster University. Dr. Anand is an excellent researcher who is contributing to improving the health of Aboriginal Peoples and it is for this reason we are highlighting her research this month. Going forward, every month we will highlight one outstanding researcher to pay tribute to their contribution to improving the health of Aboriginal Peoples.

Proposed Changes to the Open Suite of Programs and Enhancements to the Peer Review Process

On February 9, 2012, CIHR published the Open Suite of Programs and Enhancements to the Peer Review Process design discussion document. This document outlines how CIHR is proposing to change the way investigator-initiated research is funded and peer reviewed. IAPH encourages you to read the document and provide your thoughts to CIHR.

Feedback will be accepted until March 30, 2012.

Researcher Profile

Dr. Sonia Anand

Dr. Sonia Anand, MD, PhD, FRCPC
Director, Population Genomics Program
McMaster University

Dr. Sonia Anand from McMaster University is undertaking important research to untangle the role of fetal programming in the development of excess body fat and related disease such as Type 2 Diabetes. Fetal programming is based on the notion that conditions during pregnancy determine health later in life. The increased prevalence of obesity and diabetes among Aboriginal people is highly correlated with western lifestyle practices (characterized by high energy intake and low physical activity), but there is emerging evidence to suggest that the propensity to develop obesity and type 2 diabetes may be "programmed" early in life. The risk factors for insulin resistance in childhood and type 2 diabetes in adulthood include elevated maternal pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI), elevated pregnancy weight gain, exposure to tobacco, and genetic factors. To better understand the role of fetal programming in the development of excess body fat and diabetes, Dr. Anand and her colleagues propose to study the environmental and genetic basis of obesity among a cohort of Aboriginal mothers and their babies recruited from the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford, Ontario. Working together with the Six Nations Health Services and Birthing centre, Dr Anand will conduct the formative work necessary to understand cultural beliefs around pregnancy and child rearing, as well as to document and prioritize the concerns of pregnant Aboriginal mothers. With this information she will then initiate the Aboriginal Birth Cohort (ABC) and possibly include within it an intervention aimed at improving pregnancy and infant health outcomes.

IAPH Funding Results

IAPH would like to congratulate the researchers who were successful in the following IAPH supported funding opportunities. For more details on the researchers and their funded projects, follow the links provided.

Operating Grant: Fall 2011 Priority Announcement - First Nations, Inuit and/or Métis Health
Sonia Anand (McMaster University), Anthony Hanley (University of Toronto), Cynthia Jardine (University of Alberta), Sangita Sharma (University of Alberta)

Planning Grants: Fall 2011 Priority Announcement - First Nations, Inuit or Métis Planning
Billie Allan (Native Women's Association of Canada), Kathi Avery Kinew (University of Manitoba), Paul Brassard (McGill University), Brenda Elias (University of Manitoba), Carol Hopkins (National Native Addictions Partnership Foundation), Zhong-Cheng Luo (Hôpital Sainte-Justine), Jeffrey Reading (University of Victoria)

Dissemination Events - Fall 2011 Priority Announcement: First Nations, Inuit and Métis Health
Tasha Epp (University of Saskatchewan), Charlotte Reading (University of Victoria), Ellen Toth (University of Alberta)

Knowledge Translation Supplement: Fall 2011 Priority Announcement - First Nations, Inuit or Métis KT Supplement
Gonzalo Alvarez (Ottawa Hospital Research Institute), Eduardo Chachamovich (Douglas Hospital Research Centre), Heather Howard (University of Toronto), Miriam Stewart (University of Alberta)

Journalism Award (2011-2012)
Laura Eggertson

Partner Corner

Statistics Canada: Health Report Release

Health of First Nations children living off reserve and Métis children younger than age 6
by Leanne Findlay and Teresa Janz

This study examines parent/guardian-reported data about the general health, chronic conditions and physical limitations of First Nations children living off-reserve and Métis children younger than 6. Data from the 2006 Aboriginal Children's Survey were used to investigate measures of child health and assess possible associations with social determinants of health.


Thinking About Implementation Systems Research for Population Health Interventions
CIHR-IPPH is hosting a webinar on Systems for Implementation of Population Health Interventions on February 21 from 1:00-2:30pm EST. Please see the CHNET-Works! website for details and to register for the event.

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