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

A month in Mozambique

SPHERU’s co-director Nazeem Muhajarine returned home this week from a month-long trip to Mozambique as part of the project, “Engaging communities and health workers for sexual, reproductive, maternal and newborn health.” Along with Denise Kouri and Don Kossick, the trio travelled to Inhambane, Mozambique, where they joined a team of 12 project staff. During the first week, the trio attended a workshop by Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA). WLSA director Terzinha de Silva led the workshop, which was attended by key leaders of the provincial Department of Health (DPSI) directors of Health Training Centres in Inhumbane, as well as project staff. The workshop focused on gender rights and equality in Mozambique. The Program Steering Committee met on Oct. 17, to welcome representatives of Global Affairs Canada/the Canadian high Commission in Mozambique, and the Ministry of Health who were travelling from Maputo to Inhambane. The purpose of the gathering was to introduce visitors from Maputo to the project and its activities. A visit was arranged to a community health post, a district hospital, and to the Massinga Training Centre. A three-day workshop was held from October 25-27, to focus on women-centred community economic development. A guest facilitator flew in from Cape Town, South Africa. More than 40 attendees from 10 communities involved in the project, learned social determinants of health, and how to raise chickens in a small-scale community-based business. Dr. Muhajarine also conducted a consultation session with DPSI management. They discussed the use of maternal near-miss analysis in their work, which has a research component.   Dr. Muhajarine and Denise Kouri provided a summary of the activities in Mozambique upon their return at the end of October.  

Opioid crisis a health issue, not criminal

SPHERU’s Gabriela Novotna and Tom McIntosh recently wrote an opinion editorial of how opioids have escalated from a medical issue to a population health crisis. The piece goes on to describe how opioid overdoses began with over-prescription of painkillers like OxyContin, which then eventually lead to the illegal production and distribution of fentanyl. They explain how first responders are now better equipped to stop overdoses with naloxone, however the individual will most likely be “processed into the criminal justice system.” Novotna and McIntosh point out that the steps being taken now are fine as first steps, but long-term strategies must view addictions as a health issue, not a criminal issue.   “We recognize that this is calling for a major policy shift in how we discuss addiction. But as the fentanyl deaths continue to claim more and more lives, we cannot continue to pretend that we are on the path to solving this problem when every indicator says otherwise. The evidence is strong. It is our mindset that needs changing.” For more, read the op-ed as it first appeared in iPolitics, and later picked up by Evidence Network, the Winnipeg Free Press, and HuffPo Quebec. 

SPHERU talks historical timeline on CBC

Saskatchewan may have been one of the healthiest populations in the British Empire SPHERU’s Tom McIntosh spoke to CBC’s Sheila Coles on Wednesday about how that status has changed, and to find out why with the creation of an interactive historical timeline. McIntosh explained how the idea to create the History of Health in Saskatchewan Interactive Timeline happened during a meeting with fellow SPHERU faculty member James Daschuk.   Daschuk made comment at meeting at how a Dominion official in 1905 was quoted as saying Saskatchewan was the healthiest population in the British Empire. “First thing we thought was, ‘Well, that’s not true anymore,’” McIntosh said in the interview. “And it hit us, how did that health change? The interactive timeline is a compilation of events recorded since the late 1700s, including politics, employment, economic data, recordings of major health issues and disease outbreaks. By tracking this information, the timeline could illustrate how inequalities exist between different populations in the province. SPHERU intends to continue to construct the timeline to be a resource and tool for teachers, researchers and interested residents. Anyone interested in contributing information to fill gaps in data, events and other issues that have arisen in the province’s history, contact us at SPHERU.timeline@uregina.ca.   For the full interview with Sheila Coles on the Morning Edition. For the interactive History of Health in Saskatchewan timeline. 

History of Health in Saskatchewan

History of Health in Saskatchewan: An Interactive Timeline Around the time of its creation as a Canadian province, Saskatchewan was described as “the healthiest jurisdiction in the British Empire.” Nowadays, though, we are well aware that health in Saskatchewan is very unevenly distributed. It varies greatly by geography, locality, race, gender, and socio-economic status. How has our history, our past decisions and choices, had an impact on the health of different populations in the province? That is a question that SPHERU’s History of Health in Saskatchewan Timeline is attempting to answer. By combining historical data with key political, economic and social events the timeline demonstrates how the health of different populations has changed over time depending on the consequences of past actions (or inactions) and relative to other socio-economic indicators. The timeline is still under development and SPHERU is soliciting feedback and input into the timeline's contents.  The goal is for the timeline to be a valuable resource and tool for teachers, researchers and interested residents to explore the changing way health has been distributed across Saskatchewan over time. You can explore the timeline through the link below: HISTORY OF HEALTH IN SASKATCHEWAN TIMELINE CONTACT US If you have feedback on what’s already there, suggestions for what should be there, or photos, data or other information that might be relevant to helping us build the Time Line we encourage you to email us at SPHERU.timeline@uregina.ca.

$16.6 million awarded for Mozambique project

A SPHERU faculty-led project, aiming to reduce maternal deaths in Mozambique, received $16.6 million over the next five years from Global Affairs Canada on July 5. SPHERU director Nazeem Muhajarine and project director Denise Kouri are leading a team of Saskatoon leaders and university researchers, including SPHERU’s Sylvia Abonyi, to improve health services for women and approaching barriers that prevent women’s access to care in Mozambique. The team is partnering with national and provincial health ministries in Mozambique. Mozambique has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world – 489 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015. A team of 25 U of S undergraduate and graduate students in medicine, nursing, nutrition, and physiotherapy, will be working on the project, aimed to improve birth conditions in 20 rural communities in five health districts. The project will: Train more than 1,000 new health care workers, to improve practitioner’s training and responses to women’s needs in maternity clinics. Hire about a dozen staff members and consultants, five community workers in communities to educate people about gender equity, women’s sexual and reproductive rights, and empower women to use health facilities. Educate youth about gender equity and improve rights and health of adolescent girls by visiting schools with workers and health ministry staff. Purchase three ambulances for district hospitals, and 20 specially equipped off-road vehicles in the communities. Create a supportive network between local midwives, traditional healers and women’s leaders and engage in reaching women will receive skilled birthing care with little delay. Build five maternal clinics and renovate five existing clinics. Build 10 waiting houses, so women nearing their due date will be relocated close to a hospital. Determine if waiting homes are effective in delivering better outcomes for women. For more information on the project, check out this video with footage from Mozambique. Full U of S press release  Article in the Star Phoenix

Closing symposium at Wanuskewin Park

There was symmetry in the closing symposium for the First Nations Lung Health Project at Wanuskewin Park. “The opening for this whole project took place here at Wanuskewin Park, so the closing -- it’s fitting that we have it here as well,” Dr. Sylvia Abonyi said. Researchers, project staff, community leaders, and stakeholders from across the country, gathered at Wanuskewin Park on June 13 to recap and summarize the results of the five-year long project and decide what to do with the information on local and policy levels. “We’ve produced a lot of data in the project,” Dr. Abonyi said. “There are a lot more questions that we can answer that we haven’t already answered. We’d like to know what those (questions) are.” The First Nations Lung Health Project explored health and living conditions of people in two First Nations communities. Two data collections were conducted over the years, looking at factors such as lung function, allergy tests, basic social determinants and housing conditions. The project also evaluated individual and contextual factors on the outcomes of asthma, chronic bronchitis, and other respiratory conditions. Between the data collections, the team tried out interventions at the community level to make some changes. Throughout the project, the research team worked closely with the communities to endure research was being done in a good way, Dr. Abonyi said. The project launched two programs called the Green Tree Program and the Green Light Program. Through the Green Tree Program, school communities helped children connect the idea of a tree in nature as a symbol of a healthy respiratory system. The Green Light Program is a community-chosen intervention that addresses non-traditional use of tobacco. After four years, the number of individuals becoming free from non-traditional use of tobacco increased; the number of households free from non-traditional use of tobacco increased; and children were more knowledgeable of respiratory topics, including the respiratory system and how to keep lungs healthy. During the closing symposium, Dr. Abonyi noted that the team and co-principal investigators want to get a sense of what sort of policy and other intervention programs should be considered as the project moves forward. The symposium also served as an opportunity to consider what future studies that the two participating communities, and additional communities, would be interested in. The project, also known as “Assess, Redress, Re-assess: Addressing disparities in respiratory health among First Nations People,” was led by Dr. Abonyi, Dr. James Dosman, Dr. Jo-Anne Episkenew, and Dr. Punam Pahwa. The symposium finished with a memorial feast to honour and recognize the contributions co-principal investigator Dr. Jo-Ann Episkenew who passed away last year.

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