North

Yukon getting unit dedicated to patient-focused health research

Yukon is getting a new health care research unit that will include more patient and community participation than has been the case in many research projects.

Territory is joining all 10 provinces and the N.W.T. in network of similar units

The new health research unit will be based at Yukon University. (Laura Howells/CBC)

Yukon is getting a new health care research unit that will include more patient and community participation than has been the case in many research projects.

The federal government will contribute more than $5 million to develop the Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR).

The territorial government will provide staff, facilities and other in-kind contributions.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research say in a news release the Yukon will be joining all 10 provinces and the Northwest Territories in a network of similar units.

"Patients in Yukon will benefit, as the SPOR SUPPORT Unit will ensure that research has direct impacts on their lives in ways that are important to them by making them partners in research and giving them a say in which topics are researched," the release says.

Yukon Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost says community participation is important for effective research projects. (Yukon Government)

Yukon Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost said there has been an ongoing research project in the North that has already demonstrated the importance of community participation.

People in Old Crow, Yukon, Fort MacPherson, N.W.T., and communities in the Mackenzie Delta have worked with researchers for more than a decade looking at the higher prevalence of a stomach bacteria and stomach cancer in the region, Frost said.

"So the attention and the research that was done... was to look and work with the communities to figure out what triggers that. What can we do to prevent that from advancing to a further stage," she said.

Yukon's deputy minister of health, Stephen Samis, said research driven by Yukoners for Yukoners can help the territory focus on important areas like prevention.

"So rather than someone sitting in a chair at the University of Alberta or somewhere thinking up what they would like to research and how that might be able to be undertaken in Yukon, these are going to be research priorities that are really driven by Yukoners," Samis said.

The Whitehorse hospital and other health care facilities will participate in the health research projects. (CBC)

The unit will be based at Yukon University, but it will also involve the health department, Yukon hospitals and other organizations, said Bronwyn Hancock, associate vice-president, research development at the Yukon University Research Centre.

Citizens are involved in the process from the start helping researchers sort out what they want to look into, she said, with researchers taking a holistic approach.

"Which will include the person interacting with the health system, but also their families, their caregivers, the support network that they have around them," Hancock said.

The university will host the unit's scientific director and operations manager with other positions located at other facilities, she said.

Hancock said she expects the position of scientific director to be posted in February or March. In the meantime an interim oversight committee will begin meeting next month.

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