Health study

The new Connected Voices research project was announced in Bouctouche on Thursday. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

A University of Moncton researcher is studying the use of mobile technology and people with heart and lung troubles in Bouctouche.

Patients in the southeastern New Brunswick town receiving pulmonary and cardiac rehabilitation will be able to do it locally through the new Connected Voices research project.

Michel Johnson, a kinesiology professor, said studies show New Brunswickers are some of the heaviest, unhealthiest and most illiterate people in the country.

He said it is time programs started looking into fixing the problems at home. The project will study between 100 and 160 participants over two years. 

"They are referred by their physicians locally just like they would be to a regular cardiac rehab, we just have an extra research subject which looks at that distance," he said.

The Connected Voices research project is receiving $150,000 from Pfizer Canada Inc. and the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation is chipping in another $75,000. The project will include researchers from the University of Moncton, University of New Brunswick, Dalhousie University, the Horizon Health Network and the Vitalité Heatth Network

Johnson said rehabilitation normally lasts 12 weeks, but under this system, patients can sign up for extra help from a dietitian, pharmacist or another health professional who is needed.

After the initial rehabilitation is done, patients will have access to health-care professionals over the phone or virtually through programs, such as Skype.

This project will also use smartphones and tablets to help connect patients with their health professionals.

"In a context where technology is advancing quite rapidly, I believe that it is extremely important to use all resources available to improve and maintain the health of the population," said André Samson, the university’s vice-president of academic and research.

Bouctouche was a good fit for the project as the town has the new J.K. Irving Centre, which has a walking track and extra space for the study. The community also does not have a hospital.

Bouctouche Coun. Pauline Hebert said the possibility of connecting people in her town with their health professionals by using mobile devices is important.

"We all know if we have to pay somebody to take us to Moncton, pay the gas, and we don't have taxis so we have to rely on relatives and stuff like that I would think it would be very convenient for people and helpful hopefully," Hebert said.

She said she hopes the two-year project can be made permanent.