PWIAS: Healthy Communities

January 7, 2022

From text-based prenatal care for new parents in remote communities to policy recommendations that recognize the relationships between urban development and human health, PWIAS-funded research is helping to address some of the many challenges facing our healthcare system so Canadians stay healthy and receive health care no matter where they live.

Smart Parent

Patti Janssen, co-lead of Maternal Child Health, recently launched SmartParent, Canada’s first parenting education program delivered by text messaging. Messaging is comprehensive and evidence based. SmartParent follows the successful launch of SmartMom, a prenatal text-messaging program delivering prenatal education to expectant parents.  These mobile health technologies remove barriers of geography, inclement weather and road conditions, low socio-economic status, stigma associated with membership in disadvantaged sub-populations, and lack of in-class options, to bring accurate and accessible information to new parents. (November 2021)

SmartParent delivers timely information for new parents via text messaging

Alternative Cheque Day Schedule

Cheque issue day has long been tied to increases in illicit drug use and spikes in overdoses, taxing first responders and emergency rooms. According to the BC Coroners Service, fatal overdoses increase by 35 to 40 per cent in the five days after income assistance payments. Sociologist Lindsey Richardson led a team to assess whether these substance use harms could be mitigated through a structural intervention that varied income assistance payment timing and frequency. Results are complex. (June 2021)

Modified income assistance payment schedules can mitigate escalations in drug use, provided measures to address unintended harms are also undertaken.

Rural Palliative Care

Barbara Pesut and Wendy Duggleby at UBC Okanagan discovered that older adults living at home in rural areas, particularly individuals in the transition between chronic illness and palliative care, were not receiving the support that they needed. Resources were available in rural communities but few people knew about them. Nav-CARE was developed to connect specially trained volunteers with older adults to help them access resources and services in their community while providing companionship and emotional support. Nav-CARE was recently awarded $2.2M to expand and scale up the program across Canada. (March 2021)

Older adults in rural communities connect with Nav-CARE volunteers to access health resources

Healthy Cities

2017 Wall Scholar Michael Brauer, School of Population and Public Health, is the Vancouver team lead on the Healthy Cities project, an international initiative trying to understand how to design “healthy cities” and the relationships between urban development and human health. The project involves 10 cities around the world, including London, Beijing, Accra and Dhaka. What recommendations can be made to policy makers and governments to help improve the health of their populations and the planet, in a way that minimizes health inequality? Dr. Brauer is an expert on the built environment and population health, specifically related to air pollution. (February 2018)

“The cities are our environment, so we need to think about how are we letting them grow in a way that’s good for the people living there”

Focus on Men’s Health

2014 Wall Scholar John Oliffe leads the Men’s Health Research Program, and discusses his research into men’s depression. Males are formally diagnosed at half the rate of women, but their suicide rate is 3-4 times that of women. Often times men exhibit irritability, aggression, substance overuse, over engagement in work and sports. These can be cardinal signs of depression in men. However, generic screening tools for depression don’t typically include such items– so men experiencing depression can be missed or misdiagnosed. Men may also be challenged to access effective professional mental health care. Downstream, high male suicide rates reflect this also – and researchers have recently focused on de-stigmatizing men’s depression as a means to thoughtfully consider avenues for male suicide prevention. (July 2016)

Supporting men’s health through research

Design Strategies to Support Healthy Aging

2017 Wall Scholar Heather McKay at the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility led the Active Streets, Active People project which focused on the intersections between physical mobility, the neighbourhood built environment, nature of social interactions, and ultimately, how these things impact health. Researchers worked with community members and city planners to identify urban features that help individuals across the lifespan (1 to 100 years) live healthy, active lives in their neighbourhoods. (July 2016)

Comox-Helmcken Greenway incorporates gardens and seating along its route to encourage neighbour interaction