St. Michael's researchers part of international team to study health literacy among Indigenous people living with cardiovascular disease
Researchers at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto are part of an international team of researchers recently awarded a multi-million dollar grant for their work in cardiovascular disease among Indigenous people in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The Canadian team will receive $742,000 in funding for its part of the project from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and International Collaborative Indigenous Health Research Partnerships (ICIHRP).
The Canadian team consists of Dr. Janet Smylie (St. Michael's Hospital), Marcia Anderson, Nancy Cooper, Sanjeev Sridharan (St. Michael's Hospital) and Chester Langille. Led by Dr. Smylie, the team has chosen health literacy as the project focus rather than a typical medical intervention. Participants in the project will have the opportunity to gain knowledge and skills regarding treatments for cardiovascular disease. Internationally, the entire project will be led by Dr. Sue Crengle in New Zealand. Of note, the three project leads (Dr. Crengle in New Zealand, Dr. Smylie in Canada, and Dr. Ian Anderson in Australia) are all themselves Indigenous physicians.
"We are very pleased that ICHIRP is providing funding for our research and to be part of a respected international team working to reduce the impact of chronic disease among Indigenous people in Australia, Canada and New Zealand," explains Dr. Smylie, Centre for Research on Inner City Health, St. Michael's Hospital. "We will examine how to better manage heart disease and stroke through people's ability to access, understand and act on information about their health. These understandings will be specific to the Indigenous participants and communities involved. Patients and families have a huge role but they need to understand their treatment and care in order to manage cardiovascular disease and improve their health outcomes over the longer term."
The theme of the grant was "Reducing the burden of disease and inequalities in health caused by chronic disease in Indigenous people". Proposals were required to engage community participation in the research and work to reduce chronic disease in Indigenous populations. A multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional and multi-sectoral research team working in collaboration and involving all three ICHIRP partner countries - Australia, Canada and New Zealand was also necessary.
The Canadian team will work with Indigenous primary care services to develop and implement a program with patients and families that will increase knowledge of medications, increase confidence and ability to self-manage CVD, and increase empowerment in interactions with health workers. The program will also increase health workers knowledge of health literacy and their skills for working with people with high health literacy needs. Five health provider sites in Australia, Canada, and NZ will participate with 100 patients and families at each site.
Last year, Dr. Smylie's team's work was published in Indigenous Children's Health Report: Health Assessment in Action. The study was one of the first international reports of its kind; providing insight into common issues affecting Indigenous children's health around the world.
The research grant proposal was selected by a panel representing health authorities in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. In 2002, the Health Research Council of New Zealand, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia entered into a partnership to support research in the area of Indigenous peoples' health.