This year, the importance of health research has been globally reaffirmed. In 2020, we have seen Saskatchewan researchers contribute to new discoveries and solutions to battle COVID-19 and the associated stress the pandemic is placing on our health systems and personal health and wellbeing. We are also seeing Saskatchewan researchers share and use existing research through knowledge translation activities to better meet the urgent and evolving health needs of the people of Saskatchewan.
At SHRF we believe that health research is vital to the improved health of Saskatchewan citizens through a high-performing health ecosystem with a robust culture of research and innovation. We believe SHRF plays a vital role in enabling the best health research, supporting home-grown solutions to the health challenges we face as a province. Now, many of our local research efforts are taking the world stage as the global effort continues to end the pandemic.
As an organization, like many others in March of 2020, we turned to our core values to guide our actions and decisions moving forward. Leaning on our core value of collaboration, SHRF partnered with other organizations to contribute to supporting Saskatchewan researchers’ COVID-19-focused research in the province. By partnering with organizations like Genome Prairie, Genome BC, Mental Health Research Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), we have been able to help connect our local expertise to networks across Canada and internationally. These projects are:
Developing new tools for detecting co-infections with COVID-19;
Capturing insights from the front lines of care to improve pandemic responses in the future;
Allowing Saskatchewan patients to access global clinical trials;
Finding new ways to support the mental health and wellbeing of Saskatchewan citizens in virtual and other formats; and
Meeting the needs of our most vulnerable populations, such as those living and working in long-term care.
Leaning on our core value of adaptability, we were able to pivot investments in our Research Connections funding opportunity and commit to projects in innovative, far-reaching, impactful knowledge mobilization activities specific to Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 rapid response needs. Through this targeted call we supported projects that:
Translated COVID-19 resources and facts into plain language; 9+ languages; comics; videos; evidence-based clinical guidelines; and more;
Addressed the individual needs of those struggling with mental health; the needs of those working and living in long-term care homes; and the needs of those most vulnerable in Saskatchewan, such as seniors and children in care; and
Found ways to keep people active, connected and healthy in virtual settings by turning to technology to deliver information and training for new situations faced in the pandemic.
We know that COVID-19 and the necessary responses to limit, and eventually stop the virus, have taken a toll on almost every aspect of life, and most certainly on our physical, mental, and emotional health. The research ecosystem has seen interruptions in research activities unrelated to COVID-19, decreases in staff and lost opportunities for trainees among others. That is why we continue to monitor the situation and to engage with our research community and our partners to find ways to continue to work together and meet the needs of our province.
As an organization with core values of accountability, excellence and integrity, we also know it is our responsibility to look beyond the pandemic and ensure that we will be able to meet the new challenges we will face post-pandemic.
SHRF will be collaborating with our partners, the National Alliance of Provincial Health Research Organizations (NAPHRO), the Health Charities Coalition of Canada (HCCC) and the Canadian institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to determine emerging needs of the health research community related to the pandemic and to work together to support a positive culture shift within the health research landscape.
SHRF will continue to consult, listen and converse with its many partners and stakeholders to get through this pandemic, together. Let’s consider Health Research Week a celebration of the inspiring research happening in the province of Saskatchewan, and a time for new opportunities for growth and transformation of the health research ecosystem.
To all those working to make our province a healthier place, we thank you. To those who would like to learn more about the impact this work is having, you can read more on our Stories page.
Happy Health Research Week!
- Patrick Odnokon, SHRF CEO