Marta Erlandson, University of Saskatchewan
Can you describe your area of research and how it is helping address a health-related issue in Saskatchewan?
Broadly, my area of research examines the impact of physical activity and inactivity on the growth and development and health outcomes in children and adolescents. The CHAMPS program aims to improve the health and wellness of children and adolescents with congenital heart disease (CHD). We’re developing a chronic disease management program including physical activity, heart health, and psychological wellness components.
What are the most rewarding aspects of your work?
Working directly with the children and adolescents with CHD. Often our work has impact down the road that we may not be able to see directly. Working with the children and adolescents in our CHAMPS program we are able to see the benefits that this program has on both their physical and mental health. The connections and friendships made with peers in our program is the most rewarding aspect of my research.
What is the most challenging aspect of your work?
The participants in our CHAMPS program are spread throughout the province. The most challenging aspect is providing programming that is accessible to all children who would benefit. The silver lining of 2020 has been that, in having to reimagine our research, more resources have been moved online making it more accessible to a greater number of children with CHD.
How did you first become interested in this area of research? What inspires you to do the work that you do?
I’ve been interested in the effect of physical activity and inactivity on children’s growth and development and short- and long-term health outcomes since the start of my research journey. A heart mother, Lynne Telfer, approached our college with a vision to provide cardiac rehab for children with congenital heart disease. From that first meeting with Lynne our CHAMPS team has been inspired to create and provide chronic disease management programming for children with congenital heart disease. We started with a small Saskatchewan Children’s Hospital Foundation Grant to pilot our first program, which was a summer camp style chronic disease management program. From that first summer camp the participants continue to inspire our work and drive our efforts forward.
Where is your research headed in the next five years?
The results from our Sprout grant [funded by SHRF and the Saskatchewan Centre for Patient-Oriented Research] will be used as the basis for a large multi-center application to Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR). Our ultimate goal is to create a sustainable chronic disease management programming for children with CHD.
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