Health & Community Leaders Talk: George Weber
By George Weber, President and CEO of The Royal Ottawa Health Care Group
What does health research mean to you?
Research is vitally important in the mental health field because of a growing gap between the number of available specialized clinicians and the significant increases in people with treatment-resistant mental illnesses who require care that is both more effective and more efficient.
Mental health receives only about five per cent of medical research dollars, despite the fact mental illness is the No. 1 medical condition in terms of the years lost to disability, economic and social costs confronting Canadians; costing more than heart disease, pulmonary diseases and cancers combined.
Research plays a key role in discovering how to better manage symptoms of those with significant and/or chronic mental illness. For example, I am confident The Royal’s Brain Imaging Centre, which features a new PET/fMRI scanner, will help us understand how the brain works and ultimately move toward more accurate diagnoses, new treatment protocols and more personalized treatments to help these individuals improve.
The work being done by researchers and clinicians can only lead to a deeper understanding of the brain, and what happens when brain circuits go awry.
The goal, ultimately, is helping people with mental illness to return to productive and fulfilling lives.
Read Rachel Scott-Mignon’s Patients + Research blog post on The Royal’s new PET/fMRI scanner to learn more.
How does health research contribute to a healthier, wealthier, smarter Ontario?
It is estimated that the direct and indirect cost of mental illness to the Canadian economy is approximately $51 billion. Some put it at $38 billion for Ontario alone. Contributing to that is that in any given week, at least 500,000 Canadians are unable to work due to mental health problems and one in three Canadians will experience a mental health problem during their life.
As one of Canada’s foremost mental health teaching and research hospitals, The Royal combines the delivery of specialized mental health care, advocacy, research and education to improve the lives of people with complex and treatment-resistant mental illness.
Mental health research being done here and in other centres will help improve treatments rates, and will have a profound impact on creating a healthier, wealthier and smarter Ontario.
We have seen progress but there is still a long way to go. While advances have been made in the treatment of mental illness, it is still a matter of trial and error in many cases, with clinicians trying one approach after the other until something works. Research will take us to the next level, allowing for new, personalized treatment to help people manage symptoms sooner.
And, simply put, that means people can lead more productive lives, working and taking an active role in the community, all of which contributes to the prosperity of Ontario.
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To learn more about how health research makes Ontario healthier, wealthier, and smarter, check out our website and our other blog posts and videos.