NEW RESEARCH UNIT WILL SUPPORT HEALTH POLICY DECISIONS
The establishment of the Saskatchewan Population Health and Evaluation Research Unit (SPHERU) will make "our province a centre of excellence in population health research," Dr. Ralph Nilson, U of R Dean of Physical Activity Studies and chairperson of the research unit, said today.
Dr. Nilson announced the start-up of the research unit based at the Universities of Regina and Saskatchewan at a news conference.
"The health researchers, to be hired at both campuses, will create new knowledge and will increase our understanding of population health issues. They will be a valuable research resource for health policy development and planning and will help in bringing population health perspectives into the education of health professionals."
Speaking on behalf of the University of Saskatchewan, Dr. Barry McLennan, assistant dean (research), College of Medicine, said, "SPHERU is well positioned to enable Saskatchewan researchers to create a name for population health research in this province.
"This announcement is very timely and exciting, particularly in view of the federal health research initiative announced last February with the creation of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)," Dr. McLennan said.
Associate Minister of Health Judy Junor welcomed today's announcement on behalf of the province. "Our government is committed to improving the health of Saskatchewan people. Supporting population health research in Saskatchewan will help us make the right decisions about health policy and delivery. The entire health community welcomes the new partnership with the two universities, working together for the benefit of Saskatchewan citizens."
Saskatchewan Post-Secondary Education Minister Maynard Sonntag praised the two universities for developing programs like SPHERU in a spirit of co-operation.
"The MacKay report of 1996 called on the two Saskatchewan universities to take the lead in building innovative approaches to programs. The population health research announcement today indicates the process is well under way," Sonntag said.
Dr. Nilson said population health research explores how various personal, social, economic and environmental factors influence an individual's health.
"Saskatchewan's population is changing as more people move to the cities, as people age, as the cultural mix shifts, and as families assume more and more responsibilities for family members' health.
"To ensure Saskatchewan's population is healthy and productive, it is important to understand and address the impact of these and other trends in our society," Nilson said.
SPHERU is a partnership of the University of Regina, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan Health, Saskatchewan Association of Health Organizations (SAHO) and the Health Services and Utilization and Research Commission (HSURC-Sask).
Saskatchewan Health and HSURC-Sask are committing $250,000 each annually to provide a half-million dollar core budget for SPHERU. Research grant and personnel award support will be accessed through the Medical Research Council (MRC)-Saskatchewan-Regional Partnership Program.
Initially, four researchers will be hired at each university. Individual research initiatives as well as group research projects will be the foundation of SPHERU activity.
Dr. Nilson also introduced Dr. Ron Labonte of Kingston, Ont., as the research unit's director. Dr. Labonte is an internationally recognized leader in population health, health promotion and non-medical factors that effect the health of individuals.
"We believe the establishment of this research unit will mean increased health research funding and increased education and training opportunities in the field of population health in Saskatchewan," Dr. Labonte said.
"SPHERU will also lead to stronger links between research at Saskatchewan universities and the health system and will lead to improvements in the overall health of the people of Saskatchewan," Dr. Nilson said.
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Contact: Sandy Cameron
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