SPHERU engages in population health research – the study of social factors contributing to the well-being of various groups within the population.

Welcome to SPHERU

The Saskatchewan Population Health and Evaluation Research Unit is a bi-university health research unit based at the Universities of Regina and Saskatchewan. Since 1999, SPHERU has established itself as a leader in cutting edge population health research that not only looks at what and the why of health inequities -– but also how to address these and take action.

What’s Happening at SPHERU

Lit review analyzes complex home care

A better understanding of the definition of complex home care could lead to better support services for Canadian older adults. In March, Taylor and Francis online published a systematic literature review by SPHERU’s Shanthi Johnson and Juanita Bacsu. Within the lit review, Johnson and Bacsu explore what constitutes as complex home care services. Of the 25 articles and reports the pair identified, only 16 addressed complex care specifically for older adults, aging and/or home care. Home care is largely defined from a biomedical approach, and less commonly based on social determinants of health. Through a social determinants of health approach, “a more holistic and multidimensional approach,” highlights the importance of living conditions for older adults when thinking about complex care. For the complete published review, visit Taylor & Francis Online.

Surrounded by unhealthy food options

SPHERU's Rachel Engler-Stringer was recently interviewed in Today's Parent about how people's eating habits are informed by their food environments. The article, entitled, “Your kids are surrounded by junk food. So what’s a parent to do?” explores how there seems to be plenty of unhealthy food options at retailers, grocery stores and even leisure centres. Engler-Stringer weighed in on why people seem to be making more unhealthy choices when it comes to food consumption. “There is greater consumption of the foods we shouldn’t be eating all the time when there is closer proximity and greater density [of these types of food stores and restaurants],” Engler-Stringer said. People’s access to unhealthy foods has increased since the 1970s. “Even compared to 20 years ago, you have unhealthy food environments wherever you go,” she said. As for what parents, and consumers, should do about unhealthy food environments, check out the full article on Today’s Parent. “You can’t just tell people to eat a certain way and expect them to do that,” Engler-Stringer said. “Our environment does shape our health.”

Aging well, addictions in Discourse

The latest issue of Discourse, the University of Regina's research magazine, features a few familiar faces.  Aging Well on the Prairies SPHERU will be facilitating a conversation about healthy aging on May 28 at this year's Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences at the Universtiy of Regina (p. 17).  The full page ad explains how social isolation is something that impacts all older adults, no matter the community. SPHERU's event at Congress will dive into what it means to age well in Saskatchewan. The conversation on healthy aging will take place on Monday, May 28 in the RIC atrium from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. Dealing with Addictions This Fall 2017/Winter2018 edition also features SPHERU's Dr. Gabriela Novotna and her research on Saskatchewan addictions counselors and how their professional identity and counselling practice is affected while being in recovering from their own addictions issues. (p. 21) Novotna received $78,200 from the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) to develop recommendations to support counsellors in their work.  For the full articles, check out the most recent issue of Discourse. 

Goodale highlights research at U of R

MP Ralph Goodale visited the University of Regina campus on March 12 to recognize the work of Saskatchewan researchers, including SPHERU faculty. SPHERU’s Dr. Gabriela Novotna’s project, of which she is a co-principal investigator, received $451,350 to use technology to help people with substance use addictions. U of R researcher Dr. Randy Johner leads the project. SPHERU’s Dr. Shanthi Johnson and her team received a CIHR grant of $485,775 to “implement and study the impact of a home exercise program developed for older adults receiving home care, and their home care staff. The project aims to reduce falls for older adults, and reduce rates of musculoskeletal disorders for support workers.  “Congratulations to the researchers who have received these CIHR grants,” Goodale said. “Your important work holds the key to saving lives, discovering new treatments, scientific breakthroughs, the creation of the new knowledge that is at the core of advances in health, as well as achieving long-term cost savings in the health care system.” For more, visit the article on the University of Regina Communications and Marketing site.

Hunger a common residential school experienc…

When survivors shared their residential school experiences with Dr. Ian Mosby, a common thread emerged – hunger. On Feb. 26 and Feb. 27, Dr. Mosby will be speaking Saskatoon as part of the Conversations for Health Equity series. The talks, entitled “We Were Always Hungry,” focuses on how residential school diets shaped current patterns of diabetes among Indigenous peoples in Canada. As a historian, Dr. Mosby’s area of research largely focuses on food and nutrition in Canada. Through his research, he uncovered nutrition experiments that were conducted on nearly 1000 children in six residential schools across the country as well as in a number of Cree First Nations in northern Manitoba. Dr. Mosby listened and met with residential school survivors to look at the impact of food and nutrition policy on Indigenous people in Canada.  “Many survivors asked me: what were the long term impacts of the hunger and malnutrition I experienced in residential schools? If felt that it was the least I could do to try to find some answers,” Mosby said. In collaboration with colleague Tracy Galloway, who is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Toronto, they discovered a preliminary answer to those questions. In residential schools, relationships between food and cultural traditions were destroyed; food was used as a reward and as a punishment; and, more importantly, hunger and malnutrition were widespread. The health impacts of these experiences were profound -- resulting in high rates of Type 2 Diabetes, obesity, and heart disease in former students who experienced hunger and malnutrition as children at residential school. While there is a great deal of medical literature on Type II Diabetes in Indigenous people, Mosby found that, in the available literature, there’s little discussion residential schools or colonialism as a contributing factor to these health issues.   During his talk at the University of Saskatchewan on Feb. 27, Mosby plans to explore more technical aspects of the studies on nutrition experiments for health students and professionals in attendance. Health care providers – including nurses, dietitians – must take into account if patients did experience hunger in childhood, and consider those factors in assessing a patient’s health. Many survivors are blamed for those conditions, Mosby said. A person’s health can sometimes be viewed as a ‘personal flaw.’ “In fact, many of these conditions – you can link them back to childhood traumas. There needs to be less shame and more understanding of systemic causes of illnesses like Type II Diabetes,” Mosby said.   The first “We Were Always Hungry” talk will take place at Station 20 West on Monday, February 26 at 7 p.m. The second session will take place at the Gordon Oakes Red Bear Student Centre at the University of Saskatchewan on Tuesday, February 27 at 12:30 p.m. Both talks are free to the public.

More to Saskatchewan's healthcare history

The University of Regina’s Communications and Marketing team has released a feature story on SPHERU researchers and one of their passion projects – the History of Health in Saskatchewan Timeline. The story, “Saskatchewan’s Healthcare history – Medicare, race-based access, and more,” looks at how SPHERU researchers Dr. Tom McIntosh, Dr. Jim Daschuk, Dr. Paul Hackett, along with Dr. Twyla Salm (Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Programs in Education, U of R), plan to use the timeline. The historical timeline is a compilation of data on health outcomes for different populations in the province, combined with key political, economic and social events. SPHERU aims to continue to build the timeline to be a resource and tool for teachers, researchers, and interested residents to explore the uneven distribution of health across Saskatchewan. Co-director Tom McIntosh explained that the timeline has started to tell the story of how the “history of race determined, and still determines, access to care.”   “One person sent us newspaper clippings about how her father had played an important role in changing rules around access to hospitals in major cities for First Nations peoples and instead being sent only to the so-called ‘Indian Hospitals,’” McIntosh said.   For more on the feature story, Saskatchewan’s Healthcare history – Medicare, race-based access, and more Visit the History of Health in Saskatchewan Timeline More coverage on the historical timeline: CBC Saskatchewan


Photo Credit(s):
Northern and Aboriginal Health (Errol Sutherland), Rural Health (Carolyn Tran), Intervention Research (Hilary Gough), Healthy Children (Thilina Bandara), History of Health Inequities (Saskatchewan Archives Board)