SickKids, Ryerson share new research

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By Daksha Rangan

A year after Ryerson University officially launched a partnership with one of the world’s leading healthcare institutions, the progam is now looking to involve previously uninformed students in the project.

IMPAKT, also known as The Ontario Institute for Child and Youth Success, is a research-based partnership between the university’s Faculty of Community Services (FCS), and The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids). The objective of the collaboration is to share practices and research from both institutions in order to improve childrens’ health.

“Part of having a really good partnership is making sure that we have students on board within these projects,” said Donna Koller, Associate Professor at Ryerson’s School of Early Childhood Studies (ECS), and main Ryerson liaison for IMPAKT.

“That also facilitates the mandate we have at Ryerson within the academic plan, to continue to find ways to link students up with the research we’re doing.”

The difference, however, between this collaboration and the FCS’s two other external partnerships is an emphasis on accessibility.

“Often research doesn’t get translated into practice. The university has these great findings and the studies get published in journals, but it never actually reaches the people that can use it,” Koller said.

“When we look at marginalized families in the community, they often don’t get what they need because the research is done at a different level than the practice itself.”

Koller explained that those who deal directly with less advantaged youth often don’t have such research on hand when it is needed.

The idea for IMPAKT came from Dr. Joanna Anneke Rummens, Health Systems Research Scientist at SickKids.

“We have to use what we know to inform what we do,” said Rummens.

“The goal is to achieve uptake, so it’s not only what we know and how we share it, it’s how we ensure that information is absorbed and translated into policy or practice.”

Rummens is a part of The Community Health Systems Resource Group at SickKids, which is composed of internationally known professionals, based within the Learning Institute.

Rummens’ team studies and analyzes issues that affect children, such as bullying, early episode psychosis (identification of children with mental health issues early on, before it becomes incapacitating), eating disorders and obesity and various components of brain development.

IMPAKT’s focus on diverse populations of children makes the partnership with the FCS extremely beneficial.

“There is a direct link between what we’re doing and what SickKids does,” said Koller.

“The goal is to optimize and to support children and families in the best ways we can. And whether you’re a social worker, whether you’re in Nursing, whether you’re in Early Childhood, it doesn’t matter, you’re still going to hopefully have the same type of commitment. All of those parts together really can relate in some way to children and family.” Usha George, the Dean of FCS, also mentioned the significance of both institutions in the partnership.

“SickKids brings community and cultural research to the table, in addition to medical findings,” said George. “They look at community and population health, poverty levels, so there is a holistic approach to the health of children and youth at this research unit.”

She also mentioned the importance of collaborative research for the university and community at large.

“The more people that are involved, the richer is the research, applicability and uptake of the findings,” said George.

IMPAKT is currently in its first stages as an official partnership.

Faculty members at Ryerson and staff at SickKids are working on a grant application to further research funding.

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