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Annual Report

Leading the way for health and social innovation

Dr. Martin Sénéchal

UNB is making a tangible difference in the lives of New Brunswickers every day, and one of the most visible ways that we do this is through health and social innovation.

Innovations in health care

In April, Dr. Martin Sénéchal, an associate professor in kinesiology, and Dr. Yang Qu, an assistant professor in chemistry and chemical engineering and UNB’s Cannabis Health Research Chair, received funding totaling $200,000 from the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF) for their cutting-edge studies in health care.

Sénéchal’s research focuses on improving understanding of how exercise can be used to prevent and treat obesity and diabetes. Worldwide, rates of these chronic diseases have drastically increased in the past few decades. New Brunswick has one of the highest rates of chronic conditions in Canada.

Qu is the first cannabis health research chair in Canada. This funding will enable him to explore new opportunities in advancing the Canadian cannabis industry and seek discoveries to ensure Canada’s spot as the leader in cannabis research.

Healthy aging

Dr. Rose McCloskey

In July, nursing and health sciences professor, Dr. Rose McCloskey, received $800,000 in funding from the Centre for Aging & Brain Health Innovation/Baycrest and the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation to conduct research on the use of technology to improve the lives of seniors.

This project is in partnership with Loch Lomond Villa in Saint John and will examine the impact of three different technological devices.

One is a mobile platform that stores, and trends, health information specific to an individuals’ needs. It can deliver an outline of an individual’s care needs and routines as well as providing reminders to take medications and to attend medical appointments.

The second is an interactive device, mounted on the walls of a long-term care facility. When a resident approaches the device, it displays content that is specific to the interests of the individual. For example, it will play the person’s favorite music or display pictures that are meaningful to them such as of family members or of settings.

The third, and last, is a 3D video that showcases targeted screenings of animated videos on items of interest to provide meaningful and personalized experiences for residents living with dementia in a long-term care facility.

The research is being conducted with Loch Lomond Villa, which is the second largest nursing home in the province and the largest Plantree Person-Centered Care Designated Continuing Care Community in the world.

Dr. Danielle Bouchard

Dr. Danielle Bouchard, assistant professor in the faculty of kinesiology at UNB and co-director of the Cardiometabolic Exercise & Lifestyle Laboratory (CELLab), is leading a team of UNB researchers partnering with Horizon Health Network and Fitness NB to recruit participants for Zoomers on the Go, a free fall prevention education and exercise program for people 50 years and older.

One in three aging adults falls every year. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, unintentional falls cost more than $2 billion in direct healthcare expenses in 2016-17.

The 12-week exercise program is offered in multiple locations throughout Fredericton and surrounding areas. It aims to help aging adults meet current physical activity guidelines by offering two 60-minute sessions per week involving aerobic and resistance exercises, as well as flexibility and balance activities.

A team of researchers from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Ontario is investigating the effectiveness of a provincially sanctioned in-home care monitoring system that benefits the elderly.

The study, Caring Near and Far, is conducting research into user experiences with Care Link Advantage, a remote monitoring system that claims to help seniors live at home for longer. The technology is currently being used in homes across New Brunswick.

“The many benefits of the elderly staying in their homes and communities is well documented,” says Dr. Cora Woolsey, research coordinator at UNB Fredericton’s faculty of nursing. “Research has shown that seniors want to live in their own homes for as long as possible.”

If an emergency is suspected, Care Link Advantage alerts family members via phone, text or email. This allows seniors to live in their homes independently, knowing that if an accident or emergency occurs, their caregivers will be immediately notified.

The New Brunswick research team, funded by the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, is exploring both patient and caregiver experiences with the technology.

Dementia research

Drs. Shelley Doucet and Alison Luke

Four researchers from the University of New Brunswick are participating in Canada’s largest dementia research network. Drs. Chris McGibbon, Shelley Doucet, Alison Luke and Sandra Magalhaes will explore a wide range of topics related to dementia falling under three main themes: prevention, treatment and quality of life.

Last June, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) announced the second phase of funding for the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA). The CCNA, which was launched in 2014 in response to Canada’s commitment to the 38th annual G8 Summit, contains 19 teams of researchers from across the country who are engaged in research on neurodegenerative diseases, such as dementia.

McGibbon, professor of kinesiology at UNB Fredericton, is currently co-leading one of the teams with Dr. Pamela Jarrett, a geriatrician from Horizon Health Network in Saint John and associate professor of medicine at Dalhousie University. This team is working on creating a community-based program for seniors at risk of memory problems that might benefit from various lifestyle interventions.

Objectives for the study are to identify barriers and enablers to participation in future programs, evaluate methods for identifying, recruiting and retaining seniors at risk of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia (ADRD) in a community observational cohort and identify high risk communities in New Brunswick. Dr. Sandra Magalhaes from UNB Fredericton, as well as Drs. Bryn Robinson and Linda Yetman from Horizon Health Network in Saint John are also leading parts of the project.

Dr. Shelley Doucet, associate professor from UNB Saint John’s nursing and health sciences program will serve on research team ROSA (Research on Organization of Healthcare Services for Alzheimers) with Dr. Pamela Jarrett. This team will investigate how to provide innovative care for persons living with dementia at the primary care level. Other UNB members of ROSA include Dr. Alison Luke from UNB Saint John and Dr. Sandra Magalhaes from UNB Fredericton. Samantha Fowler from Horizon Health Network in Saint John is also an integral member of the research team.

Addressing the social determinants of health

Drs. Kelly Scott-Storey and Sue O’Donnell

Researchers from the faculty of nursing at the University of New Brunswick Fredericton conducted one of the first comprehensive studies of cumulative lifetime violence severity (CLVS) among men. Dr. Kelly Scott-Storey and Dr. Sue O’Donnell, associate professors, along with Dr. Judith Wuest, professor emerita, examined how exposure to violence as both a target and a perpetrator over the span of lifetime affect men’s health.

In the sample size of 590 New Brunswick men, 82 per cent reported experiencing violence as both a target and a perpetrator. According to Dr. Scott-Storey, this suggests how pervasive violence is in their lives. Men with higher CLVS had significantly poorer health and suffered from symptoms of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain than men who experienced lower lifetime violence.

Men with higher cumulative lifetime violence severity were found to be more likely to be unemployed and unable to work due to disability. They were also more likely to experience difficulty living on their current income. Overall, the participants reported higher averages of hazardous alcohol intake and daily cannabis usage compared to the Canadian average.

Dr. Janine Olthuis

Dr. Janine Olthuis, an assistant professor in psychology at UNB Fredericton, is one of 20 researchers from across Canada who have received funding through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research for projects relating to post-traumatic stress injuries (PTSI) among public safety personnel, including law enforcement, firefighters and paramedics.

Olthuis’ research focuses on overcoming significant barriers to accessing mental health care faced by firefighters with PTSI and the efficacy of a distance-delivered narrative exposure therapy intervention in reducing PTSI symptoms.

New Brunswick has some of the highest rates of murder-suicide in the country and a researcher at the University of New Brunswick is seeking to reduce these deaths through research, broader public awareness and professional training focusing on members of four vulnerable populations.

Dr. Cathy Holtmann

Dr. Cathy Holtmann, director of the Muriel McQueen Fergusson Centre for Family Violence Research, is co-investigator of the Canadian Domestic Homicide Prevention Initiative for Vulnerable Populations (CDHPIVP).

The study, which launched its third phase on Sept. 25, is seeking to better understand risk assessment and management as well as safety planning in cases of severe domestic violence from the perspective of survivors, particularly within vulnerable populations like Indigenous, immigrant, rural and remote areas, and children. With this information, Holtmann and her team hope to learn how these tragedies can be prevented, and survivors and the close friends and family of victims of domestic homicide can best be supported.