Research Spotlight: Kingston Health Sciences Centre

Kingston Health Sciences researchers tackling health equity issues world-wide

Four Kingston Health Sciences Centre researchers are combining their experience with disadvantaged populations, their relationships with institutions on three continents, and a novel approach to evidence-gathering to tackle health equity issues world-wide.

ARCH, a research collaborative for global health equity, grew out of the diverse yet complementary research interests of Kingston General Health Research Institute and Queen’s University researchers Drs. Heather Aldersey (Rehabilitation Therapy), Susan Bartels (Emergency Medicine), Colleen Davison (Public Health Sciences) and Eva Purkey (Family Medicine).

“Global health isn’t just international,” explains Dr. Davison, “it’s about advantage and disadvantage, and unequal access, and working at the structural and community level on things that can benefit the vulnerable in Canada, and around the world.”

In March, the ARCH group was awarded $449,000 from the Queen Elizabeth II Scholars Program (QES) to establish The Queen Elizabeth Scholars Network for Equity in Maternal and Child Health.

“The most vulnerable mothers and children are rarely prioritized in health research or health policy, especially outside the immediate delivery and neonatal period,” Dr. Purkey says. The network aims to address the inequities in access to health services in low- and middle-income countries, where six million children die before the age of five, and where maternal death rates are still 14 times higher than in developed regions.

To do this, the project will support the research, learning and advocacy skills of 17 PhD, postdoctoral and early career researchers from the University of Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo), Institute of Social work and Social Science (Haiti), the Mongolian National University of Medical Sciences (Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia), and Queen’s University (Kingston). The trainees will take part in international exchanges to conduct research and community outreach aimed at understanding and reducing disparities in maternal and child health.

“We want to develop engaged, ethical and innovative global health researchers who can advocate for these vulnerable populations, and address these real-world issues,” says Dr. Aldersey.

To build their collective experience, the group will also contribute to a common, multi-country study looking at the factors that contribute to maternal and child health inequities. This research has the potential to be boundary-breaking through its use of SenseMaker®, an innovative data-collection tool for mobile phones and tablets.

“It’s an efficient tool that enables us to get a quick picture of people’s experiences and perceptions,” says Bartels, who recently led a team using the tool to study child marriage in Syrian refugee camps across Lebanon. “It allows people to tell their stories without feeling judged or guilty, and then use the tool to interpret their stories for us without the filter of our own biases.” (Using SenseMaker, the researchers captured 1400 stories from Syrian refugees in hard-to-reach places in just eight weeks.)

Algorithms within the tool enable both qualitative and quantitative analysis of these anonymous stories, providing researchers with data patterns and contextual factors to capture common themes and identify inequities, quickly, so that researchers can go back to the communities within weeks or a few months to gain further information and begin to find solutions to these problems.

“QES is just the beginning for ARCH,” say the four researchers. “We’ll be seeking other funding opportunities to continue this kind of research.”

 

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Kingston Health Sciences Centre is one of Ontario’s 23 research hospitals that contribute to a healthier, wealthier, smarter province. Read more Research Spotlight posts on our Healthier, Wealthier, Smarter blog or join the conversation about why health research matters for Ontario on Twitter, using the hashtag #onHWS.

Patients + Research: Richard King

Meet Richard

Richard is one of hundreds of patient volunteers who have taken part in respiratory studies over the past 25 years with Dr. Denis O’Donnell, a world renowned researcher in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) at Kingston General Hospital.

 Richard is one of hundreds of patient volunteers who have taken part in respiratory studies over the past 25 years with Dr. Denis O’Donnell, a world renowned researcher in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) at Kingston General Hospital
Rick King at work in the dental lab he has managed for more than 45 years.
Photo: Matthew Manor (Kingston General Hospital)

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your health story?

I’m 70 years old and I’ve had lung disorders since I was three. It started as asthma, but now it’s Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD), which was diagnosed in 1994. I’ve been under the care of a respirologist since the early 1970s. I’ve gone through different levels of this disease, and it’s gotten worse over time. The problem is, air gets trapped in your lungs and it can’t get out, making it difficult to get new air in.

I’ve been under the care of Dr. Denis O’Donnell at Kingston General Hospital for the past two decades, and I’ve taken part in a number of his studies. He really has revolutionized my life. I’ve been part of a study to try out new inhalers with a new delivery system.

Dr. O’Donnell is a very kind and caring physician, always trying to read behind the lines, trying to find out why things happen. I’ve gone through seven decades of breathing disorders, and now I’m at a point where although I have limitations in my ability to perform physical activities, I still strive to live a normal life. The breathlessness is always with me but I have found that by pushing myself and exercising faithfully (which takes dedication) I can do almost do whatever I want!

Why does health research matter to you?

My belief has always been, we should give back. It’s why I’ve given my time to assist in research. Research matters to me because if there wasn’t research going on, there’d be no drug development, and a lot of people wouldn’t have the quality of life that we have now.

When I was little, many times I’d have to sleep upright in a rocking chair because I couldn’t breathe. Nowadays inhalers give your lungs an opportunity to open up your airways. You’re able to go for a walk or live a relatively normal life. When I see a doctor bending over backwards to find answers to benefit his patients, I recognize that are a lot of positives for us, and it’s our responsibility to help them answer the questions that lead to better treatments and better quality of life.

How does health research contribute to a healthier Ontario?

Research has helped me to have a better quality of life – I’m still going into the dental lab (which I managed for more than 45 years) three days a week as I move toward retirement– but it also helps the lives of all the people in Ontario. And it helps people around the world, so the impact of this Ontario-based research is global.

How can patients and families support, improve or empower health research?

Without the patient volunteers, doctors wouldn’t be able to do the research, so the patient voice is important. The problem is, there’s not a lot of public knowledge about respiratory disease. For example, people with my problem, as long as we’re sitting still, nobody knows we have a problem. But as soon as we become active it’s an issue. You should be able to do all those kinds of things, walking, going up and down stairs, playing football with your grandson… you should be able to enjoy all aspects of life. That’s what the miraculous new drugs are doing for us. So it’s important for patients to give their time to research. It IS our responsibility!

 

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Read more Patients + Research posts and share your own insights on Twitter with the hashtag #onHWS. Learn more about how health research makes Ontario healthier, wealthier and smarter: visit our impact page, and our other blog posts and videos.

Add your voice to the Patients + Research blog series. Email or call Elise Bradt at ebradt@caho-hospitals.com, 416-205-1469, or direct message or tweet at us on Twitter at @CAHOhospitals.

HWS Field Trips: Kingston

Research hospitals play a leading role in making Ontario healthier, wealthier, and smarter. To demonstrate the world-class research happening across our province, we took a field trip to historic Kingston, home to a highly innovative, interdisciplinary health research community.

We went behind-the-scenes at Kingston General Hospital, Hotel Dieu Hospital, Providence Care, and Queens University, and were delighted to be joined by patients, research teams, hospital CEOs and local politicians MPP Sophie Kiwala and Mayor Bryan Paterson along the way.

This blog post highlights only a fraction of the research we learned about on our field trip. To take the full live-tweeted tour, scroll through our Storify story here.

Continue reading “HWS Field Trips: Kingston”