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PHO scientists awarded research grants totalling over $1 million

Three Public Health Ontario scientists and their teams have received grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) worth a combined total of more than $1 million.

Preventing disease is a common thread across the different research projects, which look at cardiovascular conditions and air pollution, a new system to encourage healthier eating, and strategies to combat West Nile virus.

Dr. Hong Chen and colleagues will investigate the effects of outdoor air pollution on the incidence of three major cardiovascular conditions: atrial fibrillation, heart failure and stroke. Currently, little is known about the relationship between air pollution and these conditions. As part of a two-year $193,947 study, the researchers will follow about 110,000 adults in Ontario.

“There is a growing body of evidence supporting a possible relationship between the development of coronary heart disease and air pollution,” explains Dr. Chen. “However, whether air pollution contributes to the onset of other prevalent and potentially fatal cardiovascular diseases, like atrial fibrillation, heart failure and stroke, is less clear.”

Dr. Erin Hobin and her team will examine the impact of a new nutrition labelling system on the nutritional quality of food bought by shoppers in supermarkets across Canada. The study, worth $353,505 over two years, will look specifically at the effect of easy-to-read nutrition ratings located beside the price on shelf tags in Loblaw-affiliated supermarkets.

“Nutrition labels can help people make more informed, healthier food choices,” says Dr. Hobin. “However, a recent Health Canada study showed that individuals have difficulty understanding and using our current nutrition labelling system to compare and choose foods.”

Findings from Dr. Hobin’s study have huge potential to shape nutrition labelling practices — and improve the nutritional quality of what we choose to buy in grocery stores.

The focus of Dr. Beate Sander and colleagues is on strategies used to mitigate West Nile virus. The mosquito-borne virus was first detected in people in Ontario in 2002. Despite public education and other programs to minimize contact between humans and biting mosquitoes, outbreaks still occur.

By developing a sophisticated computer simulation model, the team will be able to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of current and future West Nile virus (WNV) mitigation strategies in Ontario.

“This project is exciting because it will significantly enhance our understanding of the comparative effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of these strategies,” says Dr. Sander. “Our findings will support public health decision-making by helping to achieve the best health outcomes for the resources invested.”

Dr. Sander’s project is funded by a CIHR grant of $470,176 over three years.

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Page last updated: 14/02/2014 3:44 PM
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