One of the unique benefits of the MSc in Health: Science, Technology and Policy program is the Interdisciplinary Health Research Project. This research project is comparable to a graduate-level thesis and requires a comparable level of investment in time and effort. A critical focus of this program is to train students to work in interdisciplinary teams. Therefore, research will be completed in collaboration with external partners including, but not limited to, government, corporate, or community health institutions. Examples of past, current and future research projects are below:
Proposed Research Projects for 2022-2024 cohort
We are current accepting applications to the MSc in HSTP program, for Fall 2022 admissions. All applicants must review the proposed research projects and provide project preference rankings in their online application. The preliminary application deadline is February 1st, 2022, and the final deadline (if space remains) is August 1, 2022. Click here to review the proposed research projects for the 2022-24 cohort
Current Research Projects
- Mitochondrial Patient Registry
The objective of this project is to continue with the development of the registry of mitochondrial patients in Canada as part of the MitoCODE platform. This will entail expanding on the research questions that resulted from the scoping review of the existing patient registry platforms. The secondary objective is to analyze the available electronic health records to begin to uncover links between mitochondrial and inflammatory/immune diseases.
- To promote and assess healthy active living among children and youth
There are several possible projects that align with the Healthy Active Living and Obesity (HALO) Research group mandate:
As a part of a multidisciplinary centre of excellence in healthy active living and obesity research for children and youth that will:
• Advance the understanding and promotion of health and wellness where children live, play and learn.
• Develop, evaluate, and mobilize innovative strategies to prevent, manage, and treat obesity and lifestyle-related diseases.
More information about the group is available at www.haloresearch.ca.
- Social and Spatial Inequities in Cause-Related Mortality: A Multiple-Cause of Death Approach
This project will systematically examine socioeconomic and spatial variation of mortality and evaluate the risks and prevalence for multiple causes of death. Students will combine analysis of multiple-cause mortality and socio-demographic indicators using administrative and census-linked data sources with the development of interactive data visualization.
- Effect of Increasing Sleep Duration on Insulin Sensitivity in Adolescents having Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes
To determine if extending sleep duration improves insulin sensitivity in adolescents presenting with risk factors for type 2 diabetes.
- Strengthening Practices: A Participatory Action Research Approach to GIS Mapping and Trauma- and Violence- Informed Physical Activity
Through community-based participatory research (CBPR) we aim to examine, adapt, and scale-up access to trauma-and violence-informed physical activity (TViPA). The use of geographic information systems (GIS), critical spatial thinking and participatory mapping will inform and support community-developed programming and reinforce the importance of participatory research through a comparative case-study.
- Understanding access to community and healthcare supports for adults with sensory disabilities in Ontario
1. To use an integrated series of virtual consultations to conduct a needs assessment of the community of adults with sensory loss in Ontario, focusing on access to community and healthcare supports;
2. To develop recommendations for community action based on the outcomes of the research and consultations in Objective 1
- Development of a tool to predict resiliency and risk for chronic diseases due to early life exposures
The Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD)1-3 is a framework to understand how
environmental exposures in early life can shape the development and occurrence of chronic diseases throughout the lifecourse4. Yet, our ability to prevent poor health outcomes and enrich for resiliency remains severely limited because we do not have a complete list of exposures that predict risk and resiliency, studies have rarely captured the complexity of exposure-outcome relationships, and there has been limited dissemination of information to the people who can use this information.
Thus, for ultimate change in clinical practice and policy to ensure all individuals have a healthy start to life and healthy adult life, it is critical to have a comprehensive and validated tool to predict health trajectories. Such a tool should integrate social, environmental, and biomedical determinants of health, recognise the influence of our environments before conception, during pregnancy and postpartum to health across the lifecourse, inform about health risks, and identify factors that provide resiliency5. Ultimately, the tool must also communicate this information in an understandable and accessible way, to support decision-making by the multiple stakeholders who can use and be informed by it.
- Assessing acceptability, understandability, and effectiveness of alternative donor screening
The aim of this project is to assess acceptability, understandability, and effectiveness of alternative donor screening questions to current blood and plasma donors. Alternative donor screening questions may include: 1) a two-step system to ask all donors their sex and gender to address the limitations of a binary system of gender and enable donors to answer according to their identified gender; 2) alternative sexual risk behaviour questions in the donor health questionnaire to move towards enabling low-risk sexually active gbMSM to donate.
- Creation of the Mitochondrial Patient Registry
The objective of this project is to begin the development of the registry of mitochondrial patients in Canada as part of the MitoCODE platform. This will entail researching and comparing other existing patient registry platforms and extablishing set of rules and criteria for the MitoCODE registry. The secondary objective is to analyze the available electronic health records to begin to uncover links between mitochondrial and inflammatory/immune diseases.
- Development of a tool to predict resiliency and risk for chronic diseases due to
The Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD)1-3 is a framework to understand how environmental exposures in early life can shape the development and occurrence of chronic diseases throughout the lifecourse4. Yet, our ability to prevent poor health outcomes and enrich for resiliency remains severely limited because we do not have a complete list of exposures that predict risk and resiliency, studies have rarely captured the complexity of exposure-outcome relationships, and there has been limited dissemination of information to the people who can use this information. Thus, for ultimate change in clinical practice and policy to ensure all individuals have a healthy start to life and healthy adult life, it is critical to have a comprehensive and validated tool to predict health trajectories. Such a tool should integrate social, environmental, and biomedical determinants of health, recognise the influence of our environments before conception, during pregnancy and postpartum to health across the lifecourse, inform about health risks, and identify factors that provide resiliency. Ultimately, the tool must also communicate this information in an understandable and accessible way, to support decision-making by the multiple stakeholders who can use and be informed by it.
- Effect of Increasing Sleep Duration on Insulin Sensitivity in Adolescents having Risk Factors for Type 2
The influence of sleep extension on glucose homeostasis in adolescents at risk for type 2 diabetes is unknown. This issue is of high clinical relevance given the high prevalence of sleep deprivation in this population and the accumulating body of evidence indicating that having a good night’s sleep is important for the prevention of chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes. We hypothesize that compared with decreasing sleep duration, increasing sleep duration by 1.5 hours over 1 week will improve insulin sensitivity. Using a randomized, counterbalanced, 2-condition crossover design, 30 obese adolescents between 13 and 18 years of age who have insulin resistance will complete the study. Participants will sleep their typical amount at home for 1 week and will then be randomized to either increase or decrease their time in bed by 1.5 hours per night for 1 week, completing the alternate schedule on the fourth week (washout period of at least 1 week between sleep conditions). This procedure will result in a targeted 3-hour time in bed difference between conditions. Sleep will be objectively measured using actigraphy (Actiwatch) and sleep schedule adherence will be promoted by providing fixed bedtimes and wake times during the experimental weeks, and will be monitored through phone calls to the research center. We will then compare outcome measures between both sleep conditions at the end (on day 8 of each study week). The primary outcome measure will be insulin sensitivity as measured by the homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR; hepatic insulin sensitivity) and the Matsuda index (total body insulin sensitivity).
- To promote and assess healthy active living among children and youth
The objective of this project is to assist with conducting two, independent research studies. The purpose of the first study is to determine the proportion of 4-year-old children in Canada who meet the World Health Organization 24-hour Movement Guidelines. The purpose of the second objective is to track independent mobility and movement behaviours among children in Grades 3-6.
- Trauma-informed Physical Activity for Parenting Individuals
Research suggests individuals who experience multiple marginalizing circumstances (e.g., socioeconomic inequity, domestic and structural violence, histories of trauma, addiction, or racism) may encounter barriers which preclude participation in physical activity. Important relationships between physical activity and positive health outcomes for individuals who have experienced trauma have been discovered. The literature suggests engaging in regular physical activity can decrease epression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and other health conditions associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. Despite the widely accepted beneficial aspects of physical activity, inequitable access and uptake of physical activity persists. The application of trauma- and violence-informed practice to physical activity has been identified as a powerful tool to develop psychosocially appropriate physical activity programs and resources for individuals who experience barriers to participation. Through community-based participatory research, this project will aim to address the following objectives:
o Understand physical activity and wellness perspectives (e.g., barriers and enablers) of parenting
individuals living in highly marginalized communities and how these perspectives are influenced by
prevailing gender and socio-cultural norms;
o Determine how to co-create appropriate gender-based, trauma-and violence-informed, and
culturally safe programs and resources to support the access and uptake of physical activity, social
inclusion, pro-social behaviours, and overall well-being of highly marginalized parenting individuals;
o Co-create and/or co-assess a multi-dimensional program of research leveraging TViPA to improve the QoL of parenting individuals who experience multiple marginalizing factors.
Three HSTP students will be involved in all aspects of the research and will garner skills to collaborate with community members, learn to respond to community identified needs, contribute to a scoping review, conduct focus groups and interviews, and support the development and evaluation of programming and resources. This work will focus on knowledge translation through the adaptation and creation of trauma informed resources.
Past Research Projects
- Canadian Atlas of Rural Health Inequality
The objective of this project is to develop an interactive web-based mapping tool to better understand the health conditions and challenges for rural Canada. This project will build on initial work completed in Maritimes and initially broaden coverage to include Ontario within an online health atlas interface. The output will be an interactive, web-based mapping tool that describes measures of health status, health service use, and the social determinants of health across small geographic areas, enabling healthcare stakeholders to understand and respond to the healthcare challenges. There is a particular focus in this project health inequalities, where both absolute and relative measures are presented.
- Development of a Methodology to Predicting Incidents and Injuries Related to Consumer Products and Cosmetics
The Surveillance and Triage Unit (STU)of Health Canada provides data analysis and interpretation services to the Consumer Product Safety Program in support of health and safety activities related to consumer products and cosmetics. As such, ongoing post-marketing surveillance of potential safety hazards forms a critical part of our function. The overall objective of this project is to enhance our surveillance capacity through identifying new methodology necessary to strengthening post-market surveillance of consumer products and cosmetics.
- The Maternal Microbiome as a Target for the Prevention of Fetal Spina Bifida
Spina bifida is one of the most common birth defects. There is extensive evidence that the micronutrients folate and vitamin B12 are key players in the development of spina bifida. The gut microbiome produces these vitamins, but there are no studies investigating the link between the gut microbiome and folate or B12 levels in pregnancy, or its links with fetal spina bifida development. This project will determine how the maternal gut microbiome differs between healthy pregnancies and those complicated by fetal spina bifida, and how it is related to micronutrient status. It will provide a unique multidisciplinary training platform for 1 to 2 students, who will be exposed to clinical and lab research, engage with clinical/government experts, hone knowledge translation(KT)skills, and produce KT outputs (e.g. infographics, brief reports, scientific manuscripts for publication) for patient engagement and dissemination to the public, policymakers, researchers and health care workers.
- Predicting Post-Concussive Problems in Adults
The objective of this study is to determine if prolonged post concussive symptoms can be predicted based on certain criteria and features at initial concussion assessment in adults.
Persistent post concussive symptoms (> 1 month) are present in 15% of adult patients suffering a concussion. These can include physical symptoms (e.g., headache or dizziness), cognitive symptoms (e.g., difficulty concentrating or feeling in a fog), emotional symptoms or behavioral symptoms. Consequences may include missed work, depressed mood, loss of social and physical activities, and lower quality of life. A persistent post concussion symptom risk score has been created and validated in the pediatric population to help predict risk of developing persistent symptoms when assessing a concussion within 48 hrs of the injury. The aim is to determine if similar factors are present in the adult population to allow for risk stratification.
- Trauma-Informed Physical Activity for Pregnant and Parenting Women
Attention to physical activity is often a low priority within health promotion and illness prevention efforts with highly marginalized populations. Yet, we know that physical activity can be an extremely cost-effective intervention and have profound effects on health and healing. Physical activity may be especially important for pregnant and parenting women who are highly marginalized, who are known to be a greater risk of negative health outcomes.
Through community based participatory action research, this project aims to leverage physical activity to improve the quality of life and community social cohesion for pregnant and/or parenting women who experience multiple forms of marginalization.Community partners will be Ottawa based organizations that serve pregnant and parenting women.
This proposed project will assess perceived barriers and benefits of physical activity for women, and co-establish strategies/directions to support the community in a culturally safe and trauma-informed manner. If community partners identify a need, we will create programming and work to improve access to, and use of, resources to support women in being physically active. The aim is to concurrently address community identified barriers to physical activity and develop practical tools for organizations to enhance programs and experiences for women. Addressing individual and systemic challenges may support women in being physically active, create greater social cohesion, and improve health and overall quality of life for pregnant and parenting women and their children in Ottawa.
- Peer Support and Dementia: Reducing Social Isolation by Enhancing Social Identity
Living in residential care can be accompanied by feelings of social isolation, loneliness, depression, and loss of life purpose. We propose that a peer-support music program—the Java Music Club (designed for individuals living with early dementia or no cognitive impairment) and Java Memory Care (for mid-stage to advanced dementia)—can reduce these negative health and well-being outcomes through an increased sense of purpose and social identity. Our main objectives are to explore and evaluate (1) the psychosocial and cognitive health outcomes and (2) individuals’ experiences and perceived outcomes, of these interventions.
- Impact of Maternal Weight and the Early Life Nutritional and Chemical Environments on Infant Cognitive Outcomes in the MIREC Pregnancy Cohort
The preschool years of a child’s life are a fundamental period for brain development and maturation. Key factors that can impact the development of the child include poor health of the mother during pregnancy and after birth, and the type and amount of nutrition the infant receives in utero and after birth. This study investigates links between maternal health and child cognitive development, and whether the early life nutritional environment modifies these relationships. Our aim is to identify factors that may affect a child’s readiness for school, and those that may protect against suboptimal cognitive functioning.
- Influence of the Central Experimental Farm on Reducing the Health Impact of Environmental Exposures among Ottawa Residents
The Central Experimental Farm, which is situated near the downtown core in Ottawa, was one of five experimental farms across Canada to promote agricultural practices. It captures an area of 1100 acres and nearly one quarter of Ottawa’s population lives within the 5 km buffer that stretches out from its center. This study aims to evaluate the health benefits of the Central Experimental Farm on Ottawa residents. Variations in environmental exposures such as noise, air pollution (NO2, PM2.5, and ultrafine particles), green spaces, and temperature both within the farm, and in the surrounding area, are being measured. We will also investigate how these environmental exposures vary seasonally.
- Understanding Social Isolation and its Relationship with Care Provision for Older Adults in Ethnocultural Communities in Ottawa
Caregivers often experience social isolation due to the demands of their caregiving responsibilities. This study aims to identify key factors toward preventing social isolation of informal caregivers. In particular, we focus on caregivers from ethnocultural communities, who may experience distinct barriers (e.g., language) to resources that affect their social and care responsibilities. In collaboration with the Social Planning Council of Ottawa, through a series of focus groups, key informant interviews, and analysis of the Canadian General Social Survey, this study aims to contribute to policies and programs that can better support caregivers from various ethnocultural backgrounds.
- Creating a Sustainable and Feasible Institutional Garden Program at The Ottawa Hospital
Our physical environment has a significant impact on our health and well-being. In hospitals, gardens are associated with an improved quality of life and faster recovery times. With the Ottawa Hospital, we aim to develop a functional model to introduce therapeutic and food gardens into their current facilities and their new civic campus. We will interview national and international healthcare institutions that use innovative gardening practices for therapeutic purposes and for on-site food production to future inform practice. We will also engage key hospital stakeholders and community partners to characterize interest in the project and identify potential hurdles.
- Electronic Cigarette Users and the Impact of E-cigarettes on Indoor Air Quality
E-cigarettes are a popular cessation aid in North America but the long-term health effects are not well understood. Further, e-cigarette use in Canadian populations is not well characterized. This project surveyed Ottawa area e-cigarette users to understand their characteristics and perceptions of health risks associated with e-cigarettes. This study also evaluated the impacts of e-cigarette vaping on indoor air quality. Key findings included observations that most participants believed that e-cigarettes improved their health. However, 42% of respondents wanted to stop vaping. This study also demonstrated that vaping increases the concentrations of particulate matter above levels recommended by the World Health Organization.
- Exploring the Health Impact of Hospital Farm Gardens
Although evidence suggests that hospital gardens have a positive effect on health outcomes, there is limited empirical research providing concrete support for the benefits of gardens in health settings. This project aimed to identify key health benefits associated with institutional gardens and to develop an inventory of tools that could be used to track health outcomes. Using the academic literature and expert interviews, we developed The Harvest Health Database, a resource for institutions and organizations with health-oriented gardens to access evaluation tools that can be used to assess the health outcomes of their garden.
- An Examination of the Factors Influencing Breastfeeding Initiation and Duration in a Survey of Ottawa Mothers
Breast milk provides important health benefits for infants. Guidelines recommend that an infant is exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life. However, it is estimated that only a quarter of Canadian mothers achieve this target. This study aimed to identify socio-demographic factors that influence breastfeeding initiation and duration among Ottawa-area mothers, and compare these characteristics with mothers in the rest of Ontario and Canada, using online surveys, focus groups, and analyses of the Canadian Community Health Survey. Results demonstrated variations in breastfeeding practices across Ottawa, and identified that parity, spousal support, access to a lactation consultant, and peer support were important determinants of breastfeeding duration.
- Developing an Influenza Vaccine Hesitant Profile and Examining a Novel Multimedia, Social Based Intervention on Influenza Vaccine Uptake
Vaccines are a crucial preventative measure against infectious diseases. However, less than half of Canadians are vaccinated for influenza each year. This study used an online survey to examine associations between personality traits and vaccine hesitancy related to the seasonal influenza vaccine. It also evaluated the performance of a video-based intervention on influenza vaccine uptake. Findings revealed higher emotional stability, increased trust in government and a higher perceived susceptibility to influenza in vaccine recipients. Non-recipients cited complacency as a reason for foregoing vaccination. The video intervention yielded a 4% increase vaccine uptake when compared to the control group.
- Through Seniors’ Eyes: Age-Friendly Communities and Quality of Life
Building on the World Health Organization’s age-friendly city indicators, this study investigated age-friendliness and quality of life (QoL) “through seniors’ eyes” within two Riverstone Retirement Communities in Ottawa. Data revealed multiple positive relationships among the age-friendly indicators themselves, and with QoL. Social participation emerged as a vital indicator in determining age-friendliness and QoL. Findings also suggested that while quantitative measures are useful for establishing initial associations between age-friendliness and QoL, involving seniors in meaningful, qualitative ways, best captures the intricate relationships between age-friendliness and QoL.
- Built Environment: Your Ottawa Neighbourhood and Determinants of Health (BEYOND-Health) Study
Many initiatives within the City of Ottawa have aimed to promote healthy neighbourhood design. However, few studies have specifically analyzed this for people with mobility restrictions, seniors, and parents with young children—populations that often experience unique challenges. In collaboration with researchers from Health Canada and Dalhousie University, the BEYOND-Health Survey investigated the relationships between built environment features, physical and mental health, and perceived neighbourhood safety. This study provided Ottawa-based stakeholders with data needed to inform public policies related to healthy street design—safe, comfortable, and convenient access to community destinations for all individuals, regardless of ability, age, or family relations.
- Identifying Support Resources for Informal Caregivers in a Rural Setting
Rural informal caregivers often experience high stress with few sources of support. This study identified factors experienced by caregivers that impact their stress including lacking available services, balancing challenges, unmet practical needs, and strong community identity. Additionally, data revealed that coping support, social interactions, and caregiver identity were each associated with lower life upset stress, but only caregiver identity was related to managing the personal distress and negative feelings associated with caregiving stress. Although available services in rural settings sometimes fall short, other options might alleviate caregiver stress, including facilitating coping support, social interactions, and particularly enhancing caregiver identity.
- There’s no place like Fairview: The Relationship Between Social Identity of Staff/Volunteers and Social Engagement of Residents
Staff and volunteers within long-term care facilities are vital to the operation of such facilities and to creating a sense of community. This study collected data from staff and volunteers at a long-term care facility to assess organizational identity, life satisfaction, resident and staff social engagement. Results demonstrated that staff and volunteers had a strong commitment to the residents and organization, and that social engagement occurred both in structured activities and informal encounters during the daily delivery of services. Through this ongoing and transparent social engagement, staff, volunteers, and residents each contribute to the sense of community at Fairview Manor.
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