Dr. Natasha Gallant’s $116,410 SHRF Establishment Grant will help her to discover if providing group psychological therapy to individuals living with chronic diseases will reduce the depression, anxiety, and other psychological distress they often face.

While usually based on good intentions, too often Indigenous-oriented health and wellness programs meant to improve well-being end up disempowering Indigenous people. Rather than embracing Indigenous peoples’ ideas and solutions, their voices are silenced and their approaches are pushed aside in favour of mainstream Euro-Canadian methods.

Dr. Michael Dubnewick, assistant professor in the University of Regina’s Faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies, knows there’s a better way, and he recently received a $119,787 Establishment Grant from the Saskatchewan Health and Research Foundation (SHRF) to prove it.

“The goal of my new research project will be to delve into the leadership experiences of Indigenous youth in the Growing Young Movers after-school program as they navigate their identities as wellness leaders,” says Dubnewick. “This will help us to understand the strengths of the Indigenous youth who I’m working with, and find out what it means for them to live as wellness leaders.”

Specifically, the project will focus on the experiences of 10 Indigenous youth who co-facilitate the Growing Young Movers after-school program run out of Regina’s mâmawêyatitân centre –  a place that offers integrated services in one central place to build and enhance the community.

Dr. Michael Dubnewick at Regina’s mâmawêyatitân centre. His research project will help identify culturally-relevant ways to support Indigenous youth as wellness leaders in their communities. Photo by Dr. Brian Lewis
Dr. Michael Dubnewick at Regina’s mâmawêyatitân centre. His research project will help identify culturally-relevant ways to support Indigenous youth as wellness leaders in their communities. Photo by Dr. Brian Lewis

Mâmawêyatitân centre brings people together to connect, learn, play, develop skills, and to celebrate culture. Mâmawêyatitân is a Cree word meaning “let’s be all together.”

“In the end, we want to help identify the culturally-relevant ways to support Indigenous youth as wellness leaders in their communities.”

Their stories of living as wellness leaders will result in youth-created public art-walk installations.

“We want the displays to be public and to visually disrupt the deficit-based stories that are being told of the community by asking the audience to engage with the counter story the youth are actually living and telling around what wellness means in their lives,” says Dubnewick.

Three other University of Regina researchers also received SHRF grants to improve health outcomes for the people of Saskatchewan.

The prevalence of multiple sclerosis (MS) in Canada, and particularly in Saskatchewan, is among the highest in the world.

Dr. Cameron Mang’s research will help to improve walking function and support positive change in the central nervous system for people living with MS. Photo by Annika Mang
Dr. Cameron Mang’s research will help to improve walking function and support positive change in the central nervous system for people living with MS. Photo by Annika Mang

This central nervous system disorder is commonly diagnosed during young adulthood and causes increased physical and cognitive disability over time. There is no cure, but specialized rehabilitation and exercise strategies may help to address challenges with walking, balance, and other aspects of movement.

Dr. Cameron Mang, assistant professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies, received $119,947 from SHRF to conduct a clinical trial comparing the effects of task-oriented exercise and generalized resistance and aerobic exercise on walking function and changes in the central nervous system in people with progressive MS.

“Our goal is to advance what we know about how to best prescribe exercise to improve walking function and support positive change in the central nervous system for people living with MS,” says Mang

Antimicrobial resistance poses a serious threat to the health of Canadians and is slowly turning into a major public health crisis. In 2018, 14,000 Canadians died due to antimicrobial resistance, which could cumulatively reach 400,000 deaths by 2050.

Infectious diseases are a major threat to Canadians' health with a considerable social and economic burden. This is even more pronounced within Indigenous communities in remote and isolated areas across Saskatchewan and Canada.

Dr. Omar El-Halfawy, Canada Research Chair in Chemogenomics and Antimicrobial Research, received $120,000 to uncover the microbial weapons unleashed by superbugs during infection that make them resistant to antibiotics.

“Traditionally this work is done in standardized lab conditions, but that doesn’t adequately represent the infection situation,” says El-Halfawy. “In this case, we will explore the microbial responses to antibiotics under conditions mimicking infection with the goal of discovering novel therapeutics that disarm microbes from these weapons.”

This research will contribute to local and global efforts to fight antimicrobial resistance and alleviate the burden of infectious diseases in Saskatchewan.

Dr. Omar El-Halfawy’s research will contribute to local and global efforts to fight antimicrobial resistance and alleviate the burden of infectious diseases in Saskatchewan. Photo by McMaster University.
Dr. Omar El-Halfawy’s research will contribute to local and global efforts to fight antimicrobial resistance and alleviate the burden of infectious diseases in Saskatchewan. Photo by McMaster University.

Dr. Natasha Gallant’s $116,410 SHRF Establishment Grant will help her to discover if providing group psychological therapy to individuals living with chronic diseases–including cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, ischemic heart disease, and heart failure–will reduce the depression, anxiety, and other psychological distress they often face.

Dr. Natasha Gallant’s research findings could lead to better chronic disease management in Saskatchewan and across Canada. Photo by Amy Hampton
Dr. Natasha Gallant’s research findings could lead to better chronic disease management in Saskatchewan and across Canada. Photo by Amy Hampton

“My research team will determine if therapy focused on helping individuals learn new ways to think and act in response to uncomfortable emotions will be as effective for people living with a chronic diseases as it has been for those living with mental disorders,” says Gallant, an assistant professor in the psychology department.

Delivered in a group setting, Gallant says this will be more cost-effective and beneficial for patients as they can meet others also living with chronic disease. Her findings could lead to better chronic disease management in Saskatchewan and across Canada.

The objective of the SHRF Establishment Grants is to assist early-career researchers in Saskatchewan in establishing an autonomous program of health research addressing Saskatchewan health challenges and achieving the research productivity necessary for obtaining major funding from national and other external agencies.

About the Author

Krista Baliko is the University of Regina’s research communications strategist and the editor of Discourse Research Magazine.