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Undergrad health students wrap up coveted grants-funded research

Undergrad health students wrap up coveted grants-funded research

Summer may be over, but for three undergraduate students from York’s Faculty of Health who were successful in snagging coveted research funding this summer, they are busily wrapping up their research.

Bachelor of health studies program students Alexandra Veres (left) and Seungree Nam both conducted research for The Arthritis Program (TAP) at Southlake Regional Health Centre under the mentorship of York Professor Liane Ginsburg of the Faculty of Health’s School of Health Policy & Management. Veres explored the theme of hope in several of the patient education programs offered by TAP, while Nam’s project looked at whether or not the Hospital Anxiety & Depression Scale (HADS) was a valid outcome measurement tool in TAP’s outpatient fibromyalgia education program.

Both students were awarded research grants as part of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s (CIHR) mobility, musculoskeletal health and arthritis undergraduate summer studentship. The funding was designed to provide undergraduate and health professional students with opportunities to undertake research projects with established health researchers in an environment that provides strong mentorship.

Seungree Nam

The third student, Julia Salzmann, also of the bachelor of health studies program, conducted an extensive data collection and analysis on the effects of the use and integration of Internet communication/e-health technologies (ICTs) as a growing resource for addressing First Nations’ mental health. She received a research grant from the Network for Aboriginal Mental Health Research (NAMHR), which is funded by the Institute for Aboriginal Peoples’ Health through the CIHR. Salzmann requested to work under the direction of Professor Naomi Adelson, associate dean, research in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, who is a collaborator on NAMHR and whose own research has focused on e-health technologies and the Internet as a health resource.

Julia Salzmann

What Nam found after helping to administer the HADS questionnaire to patients on the first and last day of the Fibromyalgia Education Program, entering all the data, conducting a statistical analysis, as well as a literature review, was that it was a relevant and appropriate tool to measure the program’s effectiveness in helping manage patient anxiety and depression.

HADS was developed to identify the possibility of anxiety and depression in patients involved in hospital clinics outside of the mental health department. Patients were also given a fibromyalgia impact questionnaire and a fibromyalgia history form.

“We did find a significant and meaningful outcome from the three surveys,” Nam says.

Left: The graph Seungree Nam prepared for his research

According to the data, patients had a 10 to 13 per cent lower score for depression following the program. Their level of survey reported anxiety, however, remained the same, but when the patients were verbally asked during the program’s last session about their anxiety, they said they felt it had improved. Nam believes the discrepancy had to do with two or three questions on the post-survey which the patients found confusing.

Nam’s poster abstracts for the research were accepted at two different conferences: the Canadian Association of Ambulatory Care conference (held in September) and the American College of Rheumatology/Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals in the United States in November. He is currently in the process of writing up his research.

As part of Veres’ research, she worked with four groups in TAP – inflammatory arthritis, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and fibromyalgia. “We were building on a 2009 pilot study done by TAP that explored the theme of hope in the inflammatory arthritis patient education program,” she says. “That study found that the patients not only wanted the program, they wanted it to be delivered with an element of hope. They wanted to come out of it with hope.”

What TAP wanted to know, says Veres, was whether this theme of hope carried through all four of the programs in TAP and what the patient learning needs were. After collecting and qualitatively analyzing the data, what the research found was that “the theme of hope permeated through all four programs,” she says. Up until now, hope was not a popular theme in patient education programs. Veres says she thinks the findings will make “a big difference in how these patient education programs will be run in the future.”

The information could lead to better patient adherence to treatment plans and improved quality of life, as well as reduced disability.

Veres abstract was accepted at the Canadian Association of Ambulatory Care conference recently and she hopes her forthcoming article will be published in a scholarly journal.

As there is little or no other research looking into the theme of hope in education programs from a patient’s perspective, Veres believes the research could be quite significant for the patient education community.

Salzmann wishes to pursue further research in Aboriginal health policy. So having the chance to look at e-health in a First Nations context was exciting to her.

This research looked at the importance of incorporating the First Nations’ holistic, traditional and cultural approach to healing, wellness and mental health services using ICTs. “Generally speaking, Aboriginal peoples have a much more holistic approach to health,” she says. “They incorporate the individual, the community and the environment, and look at all realms of health, including the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual parts of a person.”

This research explored the use and integration of ICTs in addressing Aboriginal mental health as a growing resource. “Research has shown that tele-health is a great tool, but we must consider who will finance this initiative, will it be sustainable and will it contribute to the overall health of the community? It’s a very politicized issue,” says Salzmann.

In researching the issues involved, Salzmann completed an extensive national literature review on ICTs. “Tele-health is a huge hot button topic now,” she says. “To be equitable in health in the long term, Aboriginal health has to be on the agenda.” What it comes down to is that the Aboriginal people’s own ways of seeing health, as well as their culture, has to be included in any ICT initiatives.

Salzmann’s will be presenting her work at the Canadian Undergraduate Conference on Healthcare at Queen’s University later this month. She also hopes to have her forthcoming article on the research published in a scholarly journal and she is hoping to pursue a master’s degree in public policy or public administration in the future.

Republished courtesy of YFile– York University’s daily e-bulletin to research stories on the research website.