Neuroethics for British Columbia

Neuroethics is a relatively new field of study that focuses on the ethical, legal, social and policy implications emerging from different branches of clinical neuroscience (neurology, psychiatry, psychopharmacology) and basic neuroscience (cognitive neuroscience). This award supports the creation of a team focused on working with practicing neuroscientists, physicians and clinical researchers, ethicists, and health policy-makers in BC to ensure that advances in neuroscience are aligned with societal and individual human values. The team will work towards identifying educational, research and clinical needs in neuroethics in BC, and encouraging collaboration between additional teams involved in complementary research activities.

Rehabilitation Aimed at Muscle Performance

Research indicates that sustained physical inactivity leads to chronic degenerative conditions and premature death. Currently, approximately 75% of Canadians aged 50-75 years and 84% of those over 75 are physically inactive. The associated health and economic burdens will continue to escalate as the proportion of elderly British Columbians increases to 20% of the population by 2026. Physical activity can slow the progression of certain diseases; however, questions regarding cause-and-effect remain unanswered and specific exercise prescriptions for middle-aged and older people with acute, complex, and/or chronic health conditions are not clearly defined. RAMP comprises researchers from physiotherapy, kinesiology, sports medicine, orthopedics, respiratory medicine, engineering, geriatrics, and computer science disciplines. Using basic science, clinical, and translational approaches, the team is studying muscle deficits (atrophy, injury, and failure to train) at the cell, tissue, and whole body level among middle-aged and elderly people. From these investigations, the researchers will develop rehabilitation protocols to improve muscle performance and mobility. This team received an MSFHR Team Planning Award in 2006.

Functional Lung Imaging for Radiation Therapy

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Canada. Patients who undergo radiation therapy (RT) for lung cancer face only a 14% chance of surviving for five years. In addition, they are likely to experience significant radiation-related health effects, such as impaired lung function. While current therapy attempts to reduce injury by limiting the amount of lung tissue treated, it is difficult to predict how much function will be lost. Researchers believe radiation therapy could be given at higher, more effective doses if accurate ways were identified to measure lung function within the affected area prior to treatment, and to predict how the region will be affected by radiation. Currently, as functional imaging methods such as perfusion SPECT and hyperpolarized 3He MRI (He-MRI) are being developed, predictors of radiation lung damage are emerging. FLIRT — a multidisciplinary team of radiation oncologists, and radiotherapy and imaging physicists — is researching the potential to combine these two diagnostic techniques to improve the planning, delivery and outcome of RT for lung cancer patients.

Public Health Services Renewal in BC

Canada’s public health system faces serious systemic challenges for adequately meeting the health needs of the population. To help guide a plan for improvement and renewal of public health services in BC, the BC Ministry of Health has developed a Framework for Core Functions in Public Health. This framework defines the core activities of a comprehensive public health system, and serves as the roadmap by which the province is planning and investing in public health services. By studying the implementation and outcomes of the Core Functions Framework, this team will contribute new knowledge for BC and Canada regarding ways for public health system renewal to improve population health, reduce health inequities, and better integrate with health services. This team received an MSFHR Team Planning Award in 2006. MSFHR’s Team Start Up grant will now support the team — which comprises academic researchers and key decision-makers at the provincial, regional, and national levels — to further develop its productivity and competitiveness.

Optimization of Trauma systems

Every year approximately 400,000 British Columbians suffer a traumatic injury — the leading cause of mortality and morbidity in Canada. The development of trauma systems to improve the access of injured patients to timely, and often life saving care is a health care priority. Unfortunately, access to timely and appropriate trauma care is not universal in BC. For example, injured patients in rural communities typically face economic, social and geographical barriers to care. In contrast, injured patients in urban communities are typically in close proximity to several hospitals; however, the trauma capabilities within in each hospital are highly variable, so choice of hospital may impact survival. This team of trauma surgeons, trauma care providers, geographers and epidemiologists is building a comprehensive dataset to investigate the performance of, and identify gaps within, the delivery of trauma care in rural and urban communities. The team’s goals will be to create evidence-based solutions where population vulnerabilities exist, and increase the reach and capability of the BC’s trauma system to address disparities in trauma outcomes across the province.

Health Innovation Design and Evaluation Research Team

In their ongoing efforts to improve health outcomes, decrease health care costs, and increase administrative efficiency, health care agencies are increasingly investing in information-based technologies (IT). Recently, the Canadian government highlighted the need for developing new methods for evaluating new health sector technologies in order to provide insight into the challenges associated with increased use of IT in health care settings. This award supports the development of a team that is researching the use of IT for epidemiological data collection (EDC), also known as e-epidemiology. The team’s goals include: identifying technological, organizational, governance and implementation challenges associated with the increased use of IT for EDC; addressing data quality issues arising from increased use of IT for EDC; and improving collaborations among researchers, decision makers and technology developers across disciplines who share an interest in e-epidemiology. The team hopes to improve the quality of evidence used in decision making about information technologies used for collecting epidemiological data in BC.


Catastrophic disability is the rapid onset of disability and loss of independence in three or more basic activities of daily living. The six leading causes are stroke, congestive heart failure, pneumonia and influenza, ischemic heart disease, cancer, and hip fracture. Within the next 25 years, the number of people aged 65 years and older in British Columbia will double, resulting in a significant burden on the health care system. Novel strategies are needed to reduce both the risk of catastrophic disability, and the related increased care needs. This award funds the creation of a research team focused on developing interventions that identify and minimize risk for catastrophic disability and promote healthy aging in older adults. The team’s objectives are to determine which inflammatory markers predict catastrophic disability, relate these markers to other identified risk factors, and develop targeted, effective interventions.

Collaborative research group for the study of human vaginal microbiota in health and disease

Under normal circumstances, the vagina is home to many different microorganisms. A shift in the balance of vaginal microbiota can result in infections such as bacterial vaginosis (BV), the most common cause of vaginal infection. BV and other infections are associated with early pregnancy loss, preterm labour, and an increased risk for HIV. Our primitive understanding of the complex microbial ecosystem of the genital tract greatly hampers our ability to identify and describe normal vaginal microbiota. This hinders the development and evaluation of appropriate, focused therapies for genital infections. The use of high throughput molecular methods promises to be very effective for characterizing vaginal microbiota. This award supports the development of a multidisciplinary, team of researchers, with links across Canada, to apply molecular methods for microbial species identification. Their comprehensive description and monitoring of vaginal microbiota will facilitate the development of new diagnostic technologies and therapies for infection-related problems in obstetrics and gynecology.

Workplace Traumatic Exposure Team

One of the most serious effects of occupational stress is mental illness — a prominent health issue in terms of both financial and human costs. It is estimated that mental injury claims are approximately 50 per cent more costly than physical injury claims, since workers with a mental injury are typically absent from work longer than those with a physical injury. Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety disorder are the most significant mental injuries originating in the workplace. The majority of workers will encounter an emotionally traumatic work event at some point in their career. Despite the negative implications for the worker and for society, workplace traumatic exposure has not yet been extensively studied in BC. This award supports the development of a team consisting of researchers at UNBC and UBC who are working to pool their individual expertise in workplace traumatic exposure. The team will develop their research around description/understanding, prevention, remediation and policy/knowledge translation.

Team in Child and Adolescent Healthy Body Weights

At least one in four BC children and youth is overweight or obese, and many of these young people are already developing serious diseases, such as hypertension and type 2 diabetes. Preventative and therapeutic measures have not succeeded in curbing the prevalence of overweight and obese children and youth in BC and Canada. This award supports the development of a multidisciplinary team bringing together clinical, social and basic researchers. The team aims to study determinants of childhood and adolescent overweight at individual, family, community and population levels, and to develop targeted interventions that will result in sustainable outcomes and healthy body weights.