Northern Ontario School of Medicine Researching Diabetes and First Nations

Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre adds new access for patient drop-off
Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre
Kristen Jacklin
Kristen Jacklin

THUNDER BAY – HEALTH – A new research project has received funding from the Ontario Strategy for Patient-Orientated Research (SPOR) Support Unit to take a closer look at diabetes within Ontario’s First Nations peoples, and help develop new programs and policies for those living with the disease.

Dr. Kristen Jacklin, Associate Professor of Medical Anthropology in the Human Sciences Division at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) at Laurentian University is one of three principal investigators leading the research. The team’s project Reducing the burden of diabetes on First Nations people in Ontario: Using population-level data to inform policy and practice has been awarded a $770,000 IMPACT Award from the Ontario SPOR SUPPORT Unit (OSSU). Dr. Jacklin will work alongside Dr. Mike Green (Queen’s University) and Dr. Jennifer Walker (Nipissing University) in leading this three-year project.

The research approach involves a formal partnership with the Chiefs of Ontario, the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Studies (ICES) and the Centre for Rural and Northern Health Research (CRaNHR) at Laurentian University. Working with key stakeholders and a patient advisory group, the team will gather data on diabetes, assess and analyze it, and then use that information for the betterment of the First Nations communities in Ontario.

“The complexity of the delivery of health services in First Nations coupled with a lack of outcome data has been a hindrance in evaluating the impact of diabetes programs and policies in First Nations in Ontario to date,” says Dr. Jacklin. “Working under the guidance of the Chiefs of Ontario and the patient advisory group, we will now be able to examine, for the first time, the relationship between particular programs and policies on diabetes outcomes. This research is particularly significant to the First Nations in Northern Ontario who can face significant barriers when trying to access diabetes services in rural and remote communities, and who have greater difficulties accessing healthy fresh foods necessary for diabetes care management.”

“We will be producing a comprehensive assessment of diabetes, its complications and the health services use associated with that across the province for First Nations people,” says Dr. Green, the project lead. “We are going to be looking at their access to care and we’ll be studying specific policies that the stakeholder groups bring up. We’re going to be working very closely with them in a very integrated way in order to turn that data into information and knowledge that is useful to them in their decision-making about program delivery and policy making and to improve outcomes.”

“I am hopeful that this project will not only provide us with much needed information on diabetes trends, outcomes, and health service use in First Nations, but that it will also create a road map for what can be done through policy, programming, and intervention research to improve diabetes outcomes,” adds Dr. Jacklin.

The funding through the OSSU award, one of only seven being handed out, will help address the substantially rising rates of diabetes across the province, particularly within the First Nations population. Some of the complications associated with diabetes include renal failure, cardiovascular disease and amputations.

“Reducing diabetes in our communities is a priority and I am hopeful that this research with the involvement of our First Nation diabetes patients will make this research meaningful and real. Hearing the voice of First Nations individuals who are living with diabetes tell their stories will be important in evaluating those policies that affect the lives of First Nations citizens in Ontario,” states Grand Chief Patrick Madahbee, Chair of the Ontario Chiefs Committee on Health.

The IMPACT Awards are designed to bring together diverse stakeholders–patients, clinicians, researchers, policy makers, knowledge users, industry and other health sector participants–to develop and implement promising research opportunities that improve patient health outcomes and advance our health system. The OSSU is a collaboration across 12 leading Ontario health research centres (including CRaNHR at Laurentian University), and is jointly funded by the Government of Ontario and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

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