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Children Embracing in Circle

Investing in a Healthier Future for Saskatchewan's Children and Youth

Collaborative Investment in Health Research

Through a joint investment of over $1.3 million, Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) and Jim Pattison Children's Hospital Foundation (JPCHF) have funded strategic projects designed to improve the health and well-being of children and youth across the province. These projects will further our understanding of how to effectively design and implement innovative and impactful programs and practices to support health in community settings such as schools and daycares as well as improve access to safe and effective health care services no matter where you live.  

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SHRF and JPCHF funded 11 projects through an investment of $1,349,191 

Child & Youth Health Solutions Program Funding Recipients

Rachel Engler-Stringer, University of Saskatchewan, College of Medicine

Hassanali Vatanparast, University of Saskatchewan, School of Public Health


Growing Success: Scaling the 'Good Food for Learning' school food program

Project Summary

Globally, school meal programs are one of the most successful drivers of improved health, education, and economic growth. Canada is one of few developed countries that has not had a national school food policy or program. There are, however, hundreds of ad hoc school meal programs across the country, mostly aimed at children from low-income families. These  small programs do not see the same benefits as universal school meals. The original Good Food for Learning project studied the process, benefits, and challenges of implementation of a universal healthy school lunch program that included in-class learning about food and nutrition for elementary students in two Saskatoon schools, compared to two schools without the program. Saskatoon Public Schools continue to grow the universal school lunch program to eight schools and the research team will gather information about diet quality, knowledge and attitudes of students before and after the new universal lunch program. Further information about the strengths and challenges faced by the schools in implementing the new lunch program and food and nutrition education will support Saskatoon Public Schools and other schools as they continue to implement their own universal lunch programs.


Jacob Alhassan, University of Saskatchewan, College of Medicine

Daniel Fuller, University of Saskatchewan, College of Medicine

Ron Woytowich, Kikinahk Friendship Centre


Evaluating the impact of the Kikinahk free bus service on northern Saskatchewan youth's access to mental health and sexual health services

Project Summary

The closure of the Saskatchewan Transportation Company bus service in 2017 has made healthcare inaccessible to many people. This project is an evaluation of the impact of the Kikinahk Free Bus initiative on the ability of northern Saskatchewan youth to access mental health supports and sexual and reproductive health services. Since the initiation of the Kikinahk Free Bus, there has been significant interest in understanding the impact of the service as an innovative solution to a major health system challenge in Saskatchewan and Canada - lack of travel options for those in rural and small communities. The research will explore how the La Ronge to Prince Albert Free Bus initiative influences healthcare access and equity for youth in northern Saskatchewan as well as how the initiative could be scaled up and sustained over the long term. This is the first evaluation of a rural Canadian intercity bus solution that is completely free and accessible to all and will provide valuable insight to youth experiences accessing mental and sexual health services.


Nathalie Reid, University of Regina, Child Trauma Research Centre

Lise Milne, University of Regina, Faculty of Social Work


Bolstering the Impact of the Child Trauma Research Centre: Collaborative approaches to translating research for service providers in Saskatchewan

Project Summary

The University of Regina Child Trauma Research Centre (CTRC) was established in 2020 to respond to serious challenges facing Saskatchewan children and families, including some of the highest rates in Canada of child abuse, neglect, children in care, intimate partner violence, and poverty. The CTRC aims to respond to these challenges through aligning research on trauma-integrated practices with the needs of Saskatchewan service providers (e.g., social workers, psychologists, counsellors, educators, health practitioners, etc.). These providers are the direct line of impact for children, youth, and families in vulnerable contexts, many of who have been impacted by traumatic events. The goal is to harness our existing expertise as a research centre to form a community collective of individuals who share an interest in child and youth well-being to co-create and evaluate feasible and effective trauma-integrated research for service providers. This project will be guided by four main Saskatchewan community sectors (social/justice, health, education, and newcomer services).


Amanda Froehlich-Chow, University of Saskatchewan, School of Public Health

Louise Humbert, University of Saskatchewan, College of Kinesiology

Erica Stevenson, Saskatoon Tribal Council


We tutuska towin~Forging Paths Together: The Co-Creation of Culturally Rooted and Physical Literacy Enriched Early Learning Environments

Project Summary

As a result of historical colonial practices and systemic racism, Indigenous children, both across Canada and within Saskatchewan, continue to be disproportionately affected by chronic diseases. Early learning spaces provide a valuable opportunity to promote physical literacy, the confidence to engage in physical activities for life, as a wholistic approach for prevention of chronic diseases and overall wellness. The research team, guided by Elder Kathy Wahpepah, is working with early learning educators and administrators to decolonize and revitalize the spaces where Indigenous children learn and play. Grounded in the Indigenous philosophy of ethical space and guided by etuaptmumk (Two-eyed Seeing), the initiative will braid Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing about wholistic wellness and land-based learning with the Western rooted concept of physical literacy  to co-create and share arts-land- and-culture-based programming in early learning environments.


Seok-Bum Ko, University of Saskatchewan, College of Engineering

Scott Adams, University of Saskatchewan, College of Medicine


Synthetic contrast-enhancing MRI for pediatric neuroimaging

Project Summary

Neuroimaging using MRI is important for non-invasive diagnosis of brain disease and abnormal brain development. A major challenge of pediatric neuroimaging is that it requires the child to remain motionless inside the scanner for extended periods of time. General anaesthesia can be used, but this adds risk and uncertainty for the family. MRI images can also be enhanced by administering contrast agents, but these agents also have potential side effects. The research team will develop and evaluate a new method of MRI pediatric neuroimaging using artificial intelligence in order to improve image quality. A new type of AI algorithm will use unenhanced MRI images to generate contrast-enhanced images (synthetic contrast-enhanced), providing radiologists and clinicians additional information to make a diagnosis without needing to administer a contrast agent to the patient or requiring lengthy scan times. The collaborative approach of the project—which brings together clinicians, researchers and patients—ensures that the research is patient-centered and grounded in real-world clinical needs.


Ivar Mendez, University of Saskatchewan, College of Medicine

Scott Adams, University of Saskatchewan, College of Medicine

Stacey Lovo, University of Saskatchewan, School of Rehabilitation Science


Development of a culturally-rooted pediatric virtual care program to facilitate care closer to home

Project Summary

This research aims to co-develop and co-evaluate a sustainable pediatric virtual care program in collaboration with Whitecap Dakota Nation and the Virtual Health Hub. This project will provide key evidence to support pediatric virtual care programs across Saskatchewan. The team will assess the effectiveness and sustainability of virtual care devices, determine the appropriateness of virtual care, hybrid care, or in-person care for specific needs, identify best and wise practices, and develop a framework for providing pediatric virtual care in Indigenous communities. The goal is to support the establishment and evaluation of a sustainable and culturally appropriate pediatric virtual care program for the Whitecap Dakota Nation community, serving as a model for other Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan and, more widely, in Canada. The potential impact of this project is decreasing or eliminating barriers encountered by Indigenous children and their families in obtaining quality and culturally-rooted pediatric healthcare. 

Christopher Phenix, University of Saskatchewan, College of Arts and Science


Measuring biomarkers for accurate diagnoses of Gaucher Disease in patient samples

Project Summary

Gaucher disease is a rare genetic disorder where an enzyme used by the body to break down fatty substances is missing, which can severely affect children. Parents can carry the gene for Gaucher Disease without showing any signs of the disease. Symptoms of those with the disease can vary in severity, with the most severe form often being fatal in children under 2 years. Gaucher disease is difficult to diagnosis with current available methods. This team, a collaboration of biomedical researchers and a neurology clinician, are developing diagnostic tests for Gaucher disease that can also predict disease severity by measuring the activity of enzyme in small volumes of blood. This test would also be able to monitor the success of treatment by measuring any improvements in enzyme activity. 


Heather Szabo-Rogers, University of Saskatchewan, College of Medicine

Michelle Collins, University of Saskatchewan, College of Medicine


Funded in partnership with Heart & Stroke

Insights into cardiac and facial birth defects in Saskatchewan's children

Project Summary

Structural birth defects affect approximately 5% of Saskatchewan children and most often affect the face and heart, because these two body systems develop similarly during embryonic development. Causes of the birth defects can be genetic or environmental, and the cause may or may not be identifiable. Currently, two parallel but independent approaches are used to determine the cause of birth defects: Saskatchewan Health Authority Medical Genetics clinicians conduct genetic testing for known causes, and University of Saskatchewan biomedical researchers determine how unknown genes and environmental exposure cause birth defects in animal models. This project bring both approaches together in a collaborative team. The team will perform a retrospective case review of patients seen in the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital genetic medicine clinic in order to identify potential, previously unknown causes of birth defects in Saskatchewan. The newly identified genes will be tested in animal models to confirm if they are contributing to birth defects, which would strengthen the current genetic testing.

Kelsey Cochrane, University of Saskatchewan, College of Pharmacy and Nutrition


Evaluating whether donated breastmilk is an acceptable and feasible feeding option for individuals living with HIV and their babies

Project Summary

Exclusive formula feeding is recommended for HIV-positive individuals to reduce the risk of HIV transmission to the baby. However, breastmilk is well established to have immune-boosting benefits that can’t be replaced by formula. Pasteurized donor breastmilk is an alternative that may be able to provide some of the benefits of breastmilk in a safe way, but this is not currently an accessible infant feeding option in Saskatchewan. The research team aims to understand if providing donated breastmilk to babies born to those living with HIV is something that caregivers want and if it can be done without too many challenges. The perspectives gained from this project will inform continued work in this area and aims to increase infant feeding options for individuals living with HIV and their babies.


Michael Akinpelu, University of Regina, La Cite Universitaire Francophone

Daniel Kikulwe, University of Regina, Faculty of Social Work


African Canadian immigrant youth and their experiences in making Saskatchewan home

Project Summary

This research seeks to understand the experiences of African Canadian immigrant youth in the process of finding their place to belong within Saskatchewan communities. While there is substantial work looking at the experience of adult immigrants to Canada, very little work focuses on immigration to the Prairies and on the experiences of youth specifically. The research team will work with Saskatoon Open Door Society to explore the strategies that African Canadian immigrant youth use to adapt to Saskatchewan and provide opportunities to understand their personal experiences. The study will be offered in both French and English for youth who have been residing in the four major cities of Saskatchewan - Regina, Saskatoon, Prince Albert, and Moose Jaw - less than 10 years. Canadian small urban centres are non-traditional newcomer-receiving communities that are growing fast. A better understanding of the experiences of immigrant youth will better support their integration needs and in turn will support economic growth through an increasing pool of workers in the province.


Kristi Wright, University of Regina, Faculty of Arts


Funded in partnership with the Saskatchewan Centre for Patient-Oriented Research

Supporting the 'Forgotten Ones': Development and evaluation of an internet-delivered resource program for siblings of youth with congenital heart disease

Project Summary

Healthy siblings of those with chronic illnesses such as congenital heart disease are often described as ‘forgotten’ or neglected members of the family. Parents of children with congenital heart disease have directly voiced concerns about the well-being of their healthy children but there are currently no tailored resources. The overall objective of this project is to create and evaluate a tailored, evidenced-based Internet-delivered education resource for the healthy siblings, designed to support their wellness and quality of life. The resource will include education about living with congenital heart disease and share the experience of other youth who have a sibling with congenital heart disease, and assist the healthy sibling to develop and practice healthy coping skills. Siblings of youth with congenital heart disease and their parents and health care providers will be provided access to the new resource to assess its usability, strengths and areas for improvement before the resource is used to support youth wellbeing. 

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Join Us in Making a Difference

There is an endless list of reasons to support Jim Pattison Children's Hospital Foundation. Your support can help us continue funding vital research and initiatives that improve the lives of Saskatchewan's children and youth. 

What's your reason to give?

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Media Contact

Patrick Odnokon



Michelle Busa

Communications Director


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