Examining Heterogeneity of Treatment Effects in a Pragmatic Randomized Controlled Trial Evaluating the Effectiveness of an App-based E-Mental Health Intervention for University Students

Health Research BC is providing match funds for this research project, which is co-funded by the Canadian Behavioural Intervention and Trials Network (CBITN) Doctoral Studentship. 


University is a transition period for students, a time when many students face significant mental health and substance use challenges. For many students, access to traditional treatments and interventions are limited. E-interventions for mental health and substance use disorders (MSUD) have shown promise in improving health outcomes for students and young adults. The Student E-Mental Health Project is conducted by the Mental Health Systems and Services Laboratory at the University of British Columbia and seeks to improve mental health and substance use outcomes for university students. As part of this initiative, the Minder mobile app was codeveloped with university students, and offers a suite of evidence-based interventions to support university students in managing their mental health and substance use. A pragmatic randomized controlled trial (RCT) was conducted with approximately 1500 university students at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver to assess the effectiveness of the mobile app to improve the mental health and substance use outcomes of university students. This project will use a precision medicine approach to investigate whether the multiple evidence-based e-mental health interventions within the Minder mobile app have differential effects on various subgroups of students based on demographic, clinical, and behavioral characteristics. We will build an understanding of how characteristics of individuals in the pragmatic trial can be used to predict intervention outcomes. Findings from this project will help identify population subgroups that benefit most from various components of the e-intervention, and will inform tailoring of the Minder app to provide personalized e-mental health services. It is also expected that these findings will advance the application of personalized medicine in the field of psychotherapy and in the context of pragmatic RCTs investigating the effectiveness of e-health interventions. 

Co-design a gender inclusive nutrition education intervention

Teens who participate in high school sports experience unique pressures over their dietary habits such as having energy to play, performing better, or developing certain muscles. These pressures can be harmful when teens’ dietary habits become focused on attaining a certain body shape over fueling for their sport. When this happens, an athlete has a greater risk of injury, poorer mental health, restricted growth. In high schools, ~30% of teens participate in school sports. At this time, there are no resources in place to help these athletes navigate their dietary habits, and these athletes typically do not have access to trained coaches or dieticians to help them decide what to eat. This places a large number of teens at risk for deciding what to eat based on appearance, having the potential to negatively impact their well-being. With the support of the CBITN & Michael Smith Health Research BC Doctoral Studentship 2023 Award, Alysha Deslippe (University of British Columbia, PhD candidate) is working with BC high school athletes and coaches to develop an app to support high school athletes’ dietary habits. Alysha is guided by the expertise of Dr. Tamara Cohen (UBC, director of dietetics and assistant professor) and Emilie Comtois-Rousseau (ECR Nutrition, sport dietitian). Using bi-monthly meetings with athletes and coaches over 12 months, the content and design of the app is being co-developed to ensure it meets athletes’ needs and is feasible to use in high schools. As teens’ dietary habits often carry forward, this app has the potential to help improve BC high school athletes’ life-long health by promoting a shift away from eating for body shape.