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

SPHERU student wins CPHA award

SPHERU trainee Larisa Lotoski received the Dr. John Hastings Student Award during the Canadian Public Health Association’s (CPHA) 2018 Public Health Conference last month. Larisa’s abstract was selected as the best student research paper (PhD) at the CPHA scientific meetings in Montreal. The award is named after Dr. Hastings and his commitment to and belief in students as the future of public health in Canada. Ten of the top-rated student abstract submissions were selected and presented in a three-minute thesis style format during a special session at the conference. Larisa, a PhD candidate in the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology at the U of S, was announced the winner after all 10 submissions were judged by the panel and independently by the audience Her paper was entitled, “Season, demographics and built environment features predict sedentary behavior in 9-14-year-old Canadian Children.” Under the supervision of Dr. Nazeem Muhajarine, Larisa has been studying the results of the Seasonality and Active Saskatoon’s Kids Study (SASK), which ran from 2014-2015. The study sought to better understand how seasonal changes and neighbourhood design can effect children’s physical activity and sedentary behaviours throughout the year. The study found that children in newer, safer, and activity friendly, were more sedentary as a result of fewer amenities when compared to children in other neighbourhoods with more things to see and do. The Office of VP Research also wrote a profile and highlighted Larisa's work on the study and on receiving the award.  Congratulations on this outstanding achievement, Larisa! CBC Saskatoon  

SPHERU researcher moving to U of A

University of Alberta recently announced SPHERU research faculty Dr. Shanthi Johnson as its next dean, School of Public Health. Her appointment will begin July 1, 2018. Shanthi has led important research projects and has been an active collaborator and mentor during her time with SPHERU, which began January 2007. Shanthi has been a tireless and inspiring contributor to teaching, research, and community engagement through and as part of her research. We know how skillful she is at identifying the next important research questions, the way she is able to clarify ideas, and her ability to inspire her students and colleagues. These skills, and more, have made Shanthi a true colleague, a mentor, and a friend. While we will miss her, we are also delighted that she has found this wonderful opportunity. We wish her the very best in her new role. Congratulations, Shanthi!

SPHERU at Congress 2018

If you missed SPHERU’s Aging Well on the Prairies workshop event, check out our informational booklet. It contains posters and information SPHERU researchers shared during our afternoon workshop “Aging Well on the Prairies” Community Connections event at Congress 2018. Our researchers come from a wide variety of academic backgrounds, from both within and outside of Saskatchewan, with a focus on intervention research to address issues of health inequity among children, rural older adults, and northern and Indigenous populations. Our researchers’ work highlighted at Congress explored how making changes to built environments, reducing social isolation among older adults and immigrant and refugees, maintaining culture and traditions can all lead toward healthy aging in on the Prairies. Find the informational booklet here: Aging Well in Place: Congress 2018. 

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. 

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 (History of Health in Saskatchewan: An Interactive Timeline)