Today, Canada’s Minster of Health announced the results of a rapid funding competition that resulted in an investment of more than $109M over one year in COVID-19 research across the country. Four teams from Saskatchewan will receive just over $1.8M of this funding to tackle challenges in the province, focusing on accelerating the development, testing and implementation of measures to mitigate the rapid spread of COVID-19 and its negative consequences on people, communities and health systems.
SHRF is pleased to partner with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to co-fund one of these projects led by Dr. Cory Neudorf from the University of Saskatchewan (U of S). His team will look at capturing insights from the front lines.
Local public health units, which are often buried within large health care authorities or municipal governments, have proved to be indispensable during the COVID-19 pandemic. In cities and towns throughout Canada, local public health units are responsible for implementing provincial and federal COVID-19 recommendations. These activities by local public health units have led to unprecedented consequences for their operations and the communities they serve.
There is currently no way to measure the activities of public health units and their impacts. This is unfortunate because such information would be very useful for researchers and decision-makers to learn from. Neudorf and his team propose to undertake "public health policy surveillance" to capture local public health activities themselves and their consequences on COVID-19 outcomes. This project will provide data on local public health activities and provide a method to regularly collect this information, improving our responses to the pandemic.
Support of this project is just part of SHRF’s response to supporting the research community in Saskatchewan. SHRF has also partnered on other national and provincial funding opportunities which has helped connect our local expertise to networks across Canada and internationally, as the world comes together to solve this unprecedented health crisis.
An earlier partnership with CIHR helped in supporting Dr. Alex Wong’s (U of S) involvement on a national research team that will see Saskatchewan patients included in a global COVID-19 project and provide access to clinical trial drugs and treatments. A partnership between SHRF and Genome BC is supporting Dr. Phil Davis’ (U of S) involvement in a project that ensures Saskatchewan ER data will be collected and contribute to understanding the pressures on our emergency departments. This will impact clinical decision-making and resource allocation. SHRF also worked with the Lung Association, Saskatchewan, through an innovative partnership to support furthering Dr. Tarun Katapally’s (University of Regina) citizen science research funded by MITACS. He will be working with community leaders and residents in Île-à-la-Crosse to develop an app-based program that will ultimately provide data to assist in self-governing and decision-making during public health crises, such as COVID-19.
Closer to home, in the early days of the pandemic, SHRF launched a targeted knowledge mobilization funding opportunity, through our Research Connections program. This funding facilitates the sharing, use and integration of existing health research knowledge in a way that rapidly responds to the situation faced by Saskatchewan communities, leading to informed decision making, a more knowledgeable and prepared public, and increased knowledge or resources for front line or essential services.
Through this program, we are supporting local research teams and community organizations answering the call with support for mental health; translating resources into different languages for Indigenous and newcomer communities; online programming and community connections to resources to stay healthy and active; and development and execution of tools to support various front line care workers, from nurses and paramedics to dentists.
“I am proud of the way our Saskatchewan research community and their partners have responded and contributed to the local and global fight against this pandemic,” says SHRF CEO, Patrick Odnokon. “We know our role as a funder is to support not only discoveries that will lead to better health, but to ensure this knowledge makes it into the hands of those who will use it to make a difference in our province. Health research will continue to play a vital role in seeing us through this pandemic.”