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Creative Solutions: Interdisciplinary and Targeted Approaches to Pressing Challenges

Updated: Aug 30, 2023

The following story was published in the 2022-23 SHRF Annual Report.

See the full publication here.


SHRF’s Solutions Program was developed with the goal of addressing timely and localized health challenges through the coordination of diverse skills and perspectives. By directing funded research in given ‘focus areas’, SHRF and our partners can identify and address the areas in need of timely research investments in Saskatchewan.


Solutions Focus Areas are the product of several considerations, including provincial capacity, need, stakeholder alignment, partnership opportunities and potential for impact. We identify a series of focus areas for a given year, understanding that these will shift over time as contributing factors, capacity and provincial needs evolve.


SHRF and our partners are excited to have strategically-driven research funding investments in five focus areas:

  • Virtual care (SHRF-led)

  • Addictions (SHRF-led)

  • Rural and Remote Healthcare (SHRF-led)

  • Lung Health (Partner-led)

  • Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias (Partner-led)


 

Virtual Care


While it has long been on the radar of rural and remote communities and those for whom travel presents a barrier, the pandemic made all of Saskatchewan aware of the importance of virtual care. The demand for instruments, assessment methods, policies and technologies that promote safe, effective and efficient virtual care was—and remains—a pressing need in Saskatchewan. Building on the momentum first established during the pandemic, the Virtual Care Focus Area encouraged researchers to consider long-term, coordinated and accessible solutions that can become a mainstay of Saskatchewan’s healthcare climate, connecting patients to the care they need, when and where they need it.


One such example is the funded work of Dr. Jonathan Gamble and his team of doctors, researchers, policy makers, knowledge-users and patient partners. Together, they are working to expand access to virtual multidisciplinary preoperative assessments to all Saskatchewan residents. Providing virtual options for preoperative assessments stands to reduce travel times and costs, improve accessibility and maximize system efficiencies. Gamble’s team will utilize the existing ‘Virtual Preoperative Assessment Pathway’ developed and piloted by the same group beginning in 2021 with a SHRF Innovation Grant. Over the coming two years, the team will adapt the developed processes in order to facilitate virtual assessments province-wide, then evaluate outcomes as they relate to healthcare quality, patient-identified priorities and clinician satisfaction

Making Virtual Multidisciplinary Assessment Possible for Everyone Jonathan Gamble [Saskatchewan Health Authority], Jennifer O'Brien [University of Saskatchewan] 2022-23 SHRF Solutions, Impact Grant

Image: Submitted


 

Addictions

Addictions research is complex due to its multi-faceted lens that considers the intersection of physical, social and economic factors. Accordingly, the Addictions Focus Area is well suited for the interdisciplinary and creative projects supported by SHRF’s Solutions Program. SHRF first introduced the Addictions Focus Area in 2021, in part due to the pressing overdose crisis happening in Saskatchewan. While the first year of funding introduced meaningful and impactful projects, we recognize that this work is far from complete and that trusting relationships take time to nurture and grow.


The University of Regina’s Dr. Andrew Eaton and a team from AIDS Programs South Saskatchewan (APSS) are taking a unique approach to effectively targeting harm reduction strategies for people living with addictions. Researchers will work to map ‘hot-spots’ for discarded needle incidences in Regina, then use this data to inform localized Naloxone training and harm reduction support groups. Their project will combine the efforts of knowledge-users, researchers and those with lived experience, and conclude with an evaluation of the feasibility and benefit of this approach in reducing addictions-related harm. This unconventional pairing of health and geographic research reflects the type of creative approaches inherent to the Solutions Program.


Map Community Needles Incidence Data and Respond with Harm Reduction Interventions in Regina, Saskatchewan: A Community-Based Mixed Methods Study Andrew Eaton [University of Regina]. Sarah Ross, Shiny Mary Varghese, Vidya Dhar Reddy [AIDS Programs South Saskatchewan]

2022-23 Solutions, Impact Grant

Image: Submitted

 

Rural and Remote Healthcare

In partnership with a number of provincial health charities, the Rural and Remote Healthcare Focus Area was introduced to address the roles that geography, accessibility and service provision play on communities outside of Saskatchewan’s larger centres. This funding reflects the combined priorities of the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital Foundation, Lung Saskatchewan, Alzheimer Society of Saskatchewan, Heart and Stroke Foundation, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, Hospitals Foundation of Regina and the Royal University Hospital Foundation. This focus area works to address Saskatchewan’s context and needs, acknowledging that a significant portion of the provincial population live in rural, remote and northern communities where unique circumstances stand to impact residents’ health and healthcare.


A team of researchers and Saskatchewan First Nations, led by Dr. Shelley Kirychuk from the University of Saskatchewan, are utilizing Solutions funding to embrace a Saskatchewan-based approach to the reconciliation of housing to address the disparities in health for those living on-reserve. The team will bring together leaders and members from over 50 First Nations communities, academics, home builders, wellness providers, training and development providers and policy influencers to address and redress housing as a significant determinant of health. This project will co-create and action a framework for on-reserve housing and house maintenance with the goal of reducing health inequities. The intersectional nature of this project is an excellent reflection of the collective impact approach being taken within SHRF’s Rural and Remote Healthcare Focus Area.


Enhancing Wellness in our Miyo Wāskahikan

Shelley Kirychuk, Kerry McPhedran, Lori Bradford, Wanda Martin [University of Saskatchewan]

2022-23 SHRF Solutions, Impact Grant

Image: Submitted


 

Lung Health

In partnership with Lung Saskatchewan, the Lung Health Focus Area aims to direct funding toward research that improves the understanding and management of diseases of the lungs, and the quality of life of those who experience them. SHRF’s partnership with Lung Saskatchewan allows our organizations to align our objectives, investments and reach to promote cutting-edge lung health research in our province.


One of the exciting Lung Health projects funded this year involves the identification of a novel biomarker that stands to enable the personalized chemotherapy treatment of lung cancer. Dr.’s Oleg Dmitriev (pictured), Franco Vizeacoumar, Andrew Freywald and Sunil Yadav from the University of Saskatchewan will spend the coming year testing and comparing the effects of 2,000 FDA approved drugs on high and low-MEMO1 cancer cell lines, to determine the potential of this biomarker for directing individualized drug interventions. In its completion, this work stands to identify new drug candidates to support the more effective treatment of lung cancer.


A Novel Biomarker for Personalized Chemotherapy of Lung Cancer

Oleg Dmitriev, Franco Vizeacoumar, Andrew Freywald, Sunil Yadav [University of Saskatchewan]

2022-23 SHRF Solutions, Innovation Grant

Image: Submitted


 

Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias

In partnership with the Alzheimer Society of Saskatchewan, the Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias Focus Area enables localized health research that supports disease prevention and management, and improves the quality of life of caregivers and loved ones.


With this goal in mind, the University of Saskatchewan’s Dr. Darrell Mousseau (pictured) is exploring innovative new approaches to slowing the progression of Alzheimer disease (AD). Embracing the concept of ‘personalized medicine’, Dr. Mousseau and his team will use cultured brain cells from suspected AD sufferers to confirm their risk of developing the disease and to inform early intervention strategies. At the same time, the team will work with mouse models to test the impact of injecting healthy brain cells into an AD-affected brain to assess the healthy cells’ capacity to replace AD-affected cells and promote brain-saving function. As there is currently no cure for AD, and early diagnosis is often too late to be beneficial, both research activities stand to promote improved identification and management of AD in Saskatchewan.


Injecting Healthy Cells Into the Brain to Slow the Progression of Alzheimer Disease

Darrell Mousseau [University of Saskatchewan]

2022-23 SHRF Solutions, Innovation Grant

Image: Submitted


 

We are excited to witness the success and impact of this year’s funded Solutions projects, and to announce the 2023-24 focus areas of ‘Child and Youth Health’, ‘Rural and Remote Health’ and our continued partnered areas.


Learn more about the 2023-24 Solutions Focus Areas and funding opportunities here.

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