Patty Wellborn

Email: patty-wellborn@news.ok.ubc.ca


 

Seniors having a conversation

UBC Okanagan’s NavCARE, designed to help older people with declining health age safely in their homes, has now expanded to six European countries.

The European Commission is investing more than $8 million to adapt a volunteer health-care navigation program developed jointly by UBC Okanagan and the University of Alberta.

NavCARE, created to help older persons living with declining health age safely in their homes, launched in 2014 with researchers from UBC Okanagan’s School of Nursing and the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Nursing. The goal was to connect volunteers with older people living at home to help maintain their independence and support their quality of life needs.

After a three-year study that determined older persons living in rural communities with declining health can maintain better, healthier lives if they have the help of a trained volunteer, Dr. Barb Pesut, a UBCO Nursing Professor, and Dr. Wendy Duggleby with the UAlberta Faculty of Nursing launched NavCARE. It started small, in three rural communities in BC. But as Dr. Pesut explains, the need to help the aging population is urgent.

“Far too often, supportive care comes too late and many people are left struggling,” she says. “People living at home with declining health need support early—and volunteer navigators have enormous potential to provide this support and improve their quality of life.”

The program has grown significantly since its inception and in 2021 Health Canada awarded $2.2 million to expand NavCARE across the country.

“This expansion across Canada has been exciting, as we have seen diverse communities across Canada benefit from NavCARE” explains Dr. Duggleby.

Now, a group of European partners will use the NavCARE model to implement a similar program, called EU NAVIGATE, for older people with cancer.

“The concept of care navigation hardly exists in Europe,” explains Dr. Lieve Van den Block, lead researcher for EU NAVIGATE and Professor of Aging and Palliative Care at the Vrije Universiteit Brussels (VUB) and the VUB-University of Ghent End-of-Life Care Research Group. “This is a Canadian care intervention program that’s going to be adapted to the European Union health-care context. The goal is to see how it fits into the health-care systems in our countries and how older people with cancer can benefit from it, including those who usually lack access to health and social care services.”

Earlier this month, EU NAVIGATE began service in six countries: Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Ireland, Poland and Portugal. Researchers will monitor and evaluate the implementation of a navigation intervention for seniors with cancer. The program will also examine the impact on the patients and their family caregivers and will run as an international, pragmatic randomized controlled trial.

The three main dissemination partners are the European Cancer Organization, the European Association of Palliative Care and Age Platform Europe. In total, there are 11 partner groups, including one in Canada with Drs. Pesut and Duggleby.

While volunteers are at the heart of NavCARE, Dr. Van den Block says the program will vary in each European country, with some using paid social workers or health-care professionals.

The program was developed in such a way so it could be adapted to different contexts, Dr. Pesut explains.

“What’s so positive about this project is that while the underlying principles of NavCARE stay the same, they are meant to be flexible and adjustable depending on the needs of each country,” she says. “That’s the piece we’re very excited about—seeing its potential within different health-care systems and seeing how various countries chose to use our model and make it work for their specific needs.”

The funding, the equivalent of six million euros, will cover the implementation of the program in the six countries including clinical work, research and a full evaluation. Dr. Van den Block says once navigation services are mapped in Europe, the program can grow to perhaps include all cancer patients, not just senior ones, and she sees the potential for continued growth for the many people living across Europe with chronic illness, including those with frailty or dementia.

“We have really tapped into all the different stakeholder group’s needs to create positive impacts in Europe for people living with cancer,” she adds. “This is a unique project. It is exciting to build on knowledge developed in Canada and translate it to improve care in Europe.”

The post Made in Canada health-care initiative launches in Europe appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

Asian boy watching colorful bright tablet screen in dark

While it is recommended toddlers have less than one hour of screen time per day, UBCO researchers suspect that number might be higher. They are investigating how screen time might affect a child’s sleep.

Young children and the amount of screen time they enjoy has always been a controversial issue. And now, after living with COVID-19 for more than two years, a team of UBC Okanagan researchers is taking a second look at how much screen time young kids are getting and how this impacts their sleep and the family dynamics.

There’s no doubt screen time has increased in households across North America during the pandemic, says Associate Professor Dr. Susan Holtzman. After two years of living in isolation and dealing with remote work, home learning and socialization through video chats and gaming, it is time, she says, to take a fresh look at screen habits and how it’s impacting lives.

Dr. Holtzman, who teaches psychology in the Irving K Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, and Dr. Elizabeth Keys, an Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing have launched a new study to determine how screen time and sleep habits may have shifted during the pandemic. They want to know what this means for families now, and in the future.

Dr. Keys explains why this research matters and why parents should tune in.

According to the Canadian Paediatric Society, children between the ages of two and five should use screens for less than one hour per day. But you suspect screen time is much higher, especially since the pandemic began. What’s changed?

Many parents have shifted temporarily or permanently to working from home. While this has had a number of advantages, it has also put parents in the tricky position of balancing work with caring for children who could not attend school or daycare due to actual or potential COVID-19 symptoms.

As a parent myself, I know that everyone has been doing the best they can. But some young children may have gotten used to having more screen time. Now that restrictions are lifting significantly, this is a good time to take another look at the habits that may have formed over the past two years to see how we can better support parents of young children.

What is the connection between a child’s screen time and sleep?

How screen time impacts the sleep of children is a fascinating area of research that is relevant to so many families. Some studies have linked more screen time with less sleep. One reason is that screen time can delay bedtimes. Another possible reason is that screen time can replace daytime physical activity—and we know being more active during the day can help with getting better sleep at night.

This new research looks at mothers and children aged two to five. Why that specific age?

Early childhood is a critical period for physical, social and emotional development—as well as the development of healthy habits. My research focuses on improving sleep health to promote healthy relationships in children and their families, starting in early childhood.

Sleep difficulties are very common in families of children under the age of five. These sleep difficulties can often disrupt parental sleep. In particular, we know the COVID-19 pandemic has been quite hard on mothers, who are already at increased risk of having sleeping difficulties. We all know how important a good night’s sleep is for our mental and physical wellbeing.

Why now?

We did a similar study in 2019 and more than 450 local parents participated. We are doing the survey again to look at the impact that COVID has had on the lives of families with young children. We are especially interested in looking at changes to sleep, screen time and family relationships. Are people less concerned about screen time? Is it seen as more normative? Has sleep changed in children and their mothers, who have had to juggle so many stressors over the last two years? What has been the impact on our family relationships?

To help with our research, we are looking for about 200 mothers of children aged two to five in the Central Okanagan to fill out a brief online survey located at: www.familyscreentime.ca.

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A photo of Dr. Rob Shaw playing wheelchair tennis

Dr. Rob Shaw, one of Canada’s top wheelchair tennis players, is UBC Okanagan’s 2022 recipient of the Governor General Gold Medal.

Some might think it’s a bit ironic that the winner of UBC Okanagan’s Governor General Gold Medal is already a gold-medal-winning athlete.

But Dr. Rob Shaw, who graduates this week with his Doctor of Philosophy in Interdisciplinary Studies, can quickly explain how much hard work goes into earning an honour of this calibre. Dr. Shaw is a wheelchair tennis player who won a gold medal at the 2019 Parapan American Games in Peru. He is the highest-ranked member of the Canadian wheelchair tennis team and last summer he competed in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

He didn’t get there without a lot of hard work. The same could be said of his accomplishment at UBCO.

Dr. Shaw is the highest-ranked graduate student at UBCO, an honour that has earned him the Governor General’s gold medal.

“Looking at past winners I can’t help but feel humbled by this award,” he says. “Five years ago, my supervisor and I committed to completing a PhD that would make an impact beyond the silos of academia and extend into the community to benefit people living with spinal cord injuries. I’d like to think that this award reflects that we achieved that goal.”

While earning his doctoral degree, his research focused on how peer mentorship can improve the health and wellbeing of people who have incurred a spinal cord injury. While his supervising professor Dr. Kathleen Martin Ginis describes his research as exemplary, she notes he has also become an internationally respected scientist and a community leader.

Throughout his degree, Dr. Martin Ginis says he has embraced an interdisciplinary spirit, but his impact extends beyond the traditional walls of academia and into the community. His leadership and expertise are frequently sought out by local, national and international organizations, and he has an unwavering commitment to examining and resolving pressing societal issues.

“An excellent scientist can produce a lot of great research. But an excellent scientific leader finds the potential in people and has the courage to inspire and support them. Rob has achieved excellence and acclaim as both a scientist and scientific leader,” she adds. “Through his research and leadership, and his outstanding global citizenship, Rob is making the world a better place.”

Dr. Shaw, however, says this award is only possible thanks to the support from Dr. Martin Ginis and others he has worked with along his doctoral journey.

“I am extremely proud of the work we have been able to accomplish, and I owe this award to her, my lab mates, my community partners, and most importantly to my participants who allowed me into their world so that I could try to make a real difference in their lives.”

Dr. Shaw has been described by Dr. Martin Ginis as an outspoken champion of equity, diversity and inclusion.

“He consistently reminds and challenges all of us to think about inclusion and accessibility in how we conduct and share our research with others.”

The importance of inclusion is also reflected in both the name and the criteria of the Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for Inclusion, Democracy and Reconciliation. This week it will be presented to UBC Okanagan student Azzah Al Zahra Farras, who just completed her Bachelor of Arts with a joint major in philosophy, political science and economics.

Shortly after arriving at UBCO in 2018, Farras established a campus-wide chapter of Amnesty International and began hosting conferences and events to examine local and international issues. She coordinated weekly sessions where students could discuss international injustices, while creating a safe space for marginalized students to share their stories and discuss opportunities for students to engage in change.

“Through the Amnesty International chapter, we created opportunities for students on campus to share issues about human rights, protection, justice and conflicts that they care about from their own country,” says Farras, explaining the students had engaging conversations about many issues including the farmer’s protest in India, Tibetan rights to self-determination, the Palestinian rights, and democratic rights for people living in Thailand.

“I am surrounded by a very international community at UBCO and it’s something we should all look forward to in universities,” she adds. “I have a lot of friends from different countries that support me and also celebrate my culture and my beliefs and values as I celebrate theirs. That’s what I’m really happy about.”

In September 2021, she joined the UBC Okanagan Library team as a student representative of the UBC’s Inclusion Action Plan and Indigenous Strategic Plan, where she independently developed projects to highlight Arab, Muslim, Asian, Indigenous and Black voices in literature and academia. Farras built multiple book displays at the library and designed digital LibGuide sites that list resources based on each theme, granting students information and access regardless of their location during COVID-19.

Farras recalls the day when a student approached the service desk and tearfully thanked the library staff saying how encouraging it was to see students with hijabs represented at the library and it helped make her feel included.

“For me, this was a full-circle moment,” says Farras. “Although I did feel isolated in my first year, I was able to change that situation for younger hijab-wearing students. I believe these efforts transpired important representation at UBCO. It raises important conversations on institutionalized racism and discrimination against marginalized groups. I am honoured to be a part of that shift.”

UBCO Librarian Christian Isbister says Farras worked tirelessly to engage the campus community and bring awareness to diverse voices in the library collection. Her book displays were always popular and well-received, and her work on the Book Fairies project helped encourage reading of more diverse authors, including Indigenous, Black, Asian and Arab writers.

“Azzah has dedicated herself to the promotion of inclusion on our campus,” says Isbister. “At the library, she demonstrated great leadership in developing initiatives to highlight diverse voices in our collection, and foster a sense of welcome and belonging for students belonging to marginalized communities. It was a pleasure to get to work with Azzah, and her presence in the library will be greatly missed.”

Also, this week, Anna Bernath, who just completed her Bachelor of Science degree with concentrations in biochemistry and molecular biology, was awarded the Pushor Mitchell Gold Medal Leadership Prize.

The $10,000 prize is the largest donor-funded award available to graduating Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science students. The award recognizes a student who has excelled academically and demonstrated leadership while earning their degree.

Bernath joined Dr. Andis Klegeris’ Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology Lab as a volunteer research assistant, and contributed upwards of 250 hours in the facility. She also conducted research studying the role of microglia—immune cells of the brain—in Alzheimer’s disease. When not in the lab or studying, she worked as a teaching assistant, acting as a liaison between faculty and students.

“I have immense gratitude for the faculty, staff and UBCO colleagues who created invaluable opportunities for growth and leadership, and I hope I made a lasting impact on junior students and excited them about research endeavours,” says Bernath.

The Pushor Mitchell LLP Gold Medal Leadership Award has been presented to a student at UBCO since 2009, explains Andrew Brunton, Managing Partner at Pushor Mitchell.

“Pushor Mitchell is very pleased to see another deserving student receive this award,” says Brunton.  “Our firm has been supporting this prestigious award at UBC Okanagan for 13 years now, presented to students based on both academic excellence and community leadership. We applaud this year’s recipient Anna Bernath and wish her luck with her career in neuroscience research.”

Farras and Bernath will be recognized as they cross the stage at Thursday’s convocation while Dr. Shaw will receive his medal Friday morning.

Other University of British Columbia medal (top of class) winners are:

  • UBC Medal in Arts: Abhineeth Adiraju
  • UBC Medal in Education: Anica McIntosh
  • UBC Medal in Engineering: Rachel May
  • UBC Medal in Fine Arts: Amelia Ford
  • UBC Medal in Human Kinetics: Kenedy Olsen
  • UBC Medal in Management: Jo-Elle Craig
  • UBC Medal in Media Studies: Jordan Pike
  • UBC Medal in Nursing: Camryn McCrystal
  • UBC Medal in Science: Megan Greenwood

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Group of friends ride mountain bike in the forest together

UBCO research shows that finding ways to anchor mental health promotion in a lifestyle intervention such as team sports, hobbies or other interests encourages men to seek out and engage in health services.

While the stereotypical image of the sullen male suffering in silence still rings true in many places, a group of international researchers says men will talk about their mental health, but only in the right settings.

Researchers from UBC Okanagan, UBC Vancouver and two universities in Australia recently published research examining how the stigma associated with mental health issues magnifies when men are involved.

Dr. Joan Bottorff, Director of UBCO’s Institute for Healthy Living and Chronic Disease Prevention, says men often ignore physical health issues and it’s even worse when it comes to mental health. The research was conducted in Australia, she explains, because statistics confirm Australian men often ignore mental health symptoms and they account for three-quarters of deaths from suicide in that country.

“Consistent worldwide evidence suggests men are far less likely than women to seek help for mental health challenges, irrespective of age, nationality and ethnic or racial background,” she says. “The relationship between gender and mental health is not straightforward and our study contributes important insights into the complex relationship between men’s mental health and masculinities.”

Along with male participants, stakeholders—people who have frontline experience working with men—were also interviewed for this study. Data gathered concluded that men are likely to focus on physical symptoms such as being tired or irritable, while they often ignore behaviours—anger, substance use, risk-taking—that can be byproducts of mental health issues.

As a result, Bottorff says mental health problems may be hidden or overlooked by a man, and may often go unrecognized or undiagnosed.

Generally, men tend to immerse themselves in their work, have a general lack of their own emotional awareness or can operate on autopilot with the hope that any issue might eventually go away or resolve itself, explains Dr. Paul Sharp, a UBCO alumnus and current postdoctoral researcher with UBC’s Men’s Health Research Program.

“During the interviews, some men were open to mental health promotion resources and tools for self-management, but others remained resistant,” says Dr. Sharp. “While it is clear men are aware of existing mental health supports and services they, along with the stakeholders, believe there are considerable barriers associated with accessing these preventive mental health services.”

Study participants said there were not a lot of avenues—even when they sought help—due to fears of negative social repercussions including being perceived as inadequate or unmanly. They also said while a workplace may say help is available, men are worried they could ruin their career if colleagues knew they had reached out for help.

Even in close social circles, gender roles can be policed and contested, says Dr. Sharp.

“Publicly acknowledging or discussing involvement in a men’s group with friends, family or colleagues is viewed as risky by many,” says Dr. Sharp. “One man described how even talking about mental health is seen as a sign of weakness, resulting in being ridiculed and ostracized by peers. Another said men-specific group participants were viewed as something for marginalized, subordinate, ‘less-than’ men, while another admitted to being goaded by his daughter when he admitted participating in a men’s group.”

However, Dr. Sharp adds, evidence also suggests that men will seek out and engage in health services when services are designed and delivered in ways that align with their preferences and interests. He suggests mental health advocates find ways to anchor mental health promotion in a lifestyle intervention—including team sports, hobbies and other interests such as gardening, mountain biking or surfing.

“People say men don’t talk, but we know that’s not true,” he says. “Once they are in the right space, they will open up. However, you can’t say to a man ‘come and talk about mental health and have a bit of exercise’. It needs to be the other way around.”

Dr. Cristina Caperchione, senior author and Associate Professor at the University of Technology in Australia, says these findings, published recently in PLoS One, demonstrate the need to provide better direction for gender-sensitized approaches to community-based mental health promotion for men.

“By anchoring mental health promotion to acceptable lifestyle practices, we can normalize and embed the discussion of mental health promotion relative to other behaviours within acceptable masculine practices,” says Dr. Caperchione. “Talking about and promoting mental health is key to preventing men’s mental disorders, and by extension advancing the wellbeing of their families and friends.”

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Isolation Quarantine Covid-19 stock photo

UBCO experts discuss how society has coped during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was March 17, 2020, just on the heels of the World Health Organization declaring the as-yet-un-named virus a pandemic, that BC declared a state of emergency.

Schools were closed, offices shuttered, stores locked and people were sent home to face isolation, uncertainty and a looming sense of fear and bewilderment. And now Zoom calls, masks, vaccines and mandates have become part of everyday life across the country.

How has society coped? What has been learned? Has anything changed?

Long before Dr. Bonnie Henry suggested people be kind to each other, Dr. John-Tyler Binfet, an Associate Professor with the Okanagan School of Education, was making the study of kindness part of his daily routine. Dr. Binfet is joined by six other UBC Okanagan experts, who can field questions ranging from vaccine equity, online shopping trends, the importance of exercise and the impact of so much screen time on children.

Dr. Binfet, Director of the Centre For Mindful Engagement and Director of Building Academic Retention Through K-9s

Availability: Noon, Wednesday and all of Thursday, PST
johntyler.binfet@ubc.ca

Dr. Binfet’s areas of research include the conceptualizations of kindness in children and adolescents, measuring kindness in schools, canine-assisted interventions and assessment of therapy dogs. His new book written during the pandemic, Cultivating Kindness, will be available this summer.

Related to the pandemic, Dr. Binfet can discuss:

  • University student wellbeing
  • Being kind
  • Why kindness matters

Kevin Chong, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies

Availability: Wednesday and Thursday, 9 to 11 am PST
kevin.chong@ubc.ca

Chong teaches creative writing, fiction, creative nonfiction, literary journalism, dramatic writing and different writing styles including short story, memoir, personal essay, and lyric essay. He is the author of six books, including The Plague, and wrote a book during the pandemic when the public reading of his play was cancelled due to COVID-19. Dr. Chong also established an online antiracist book club during the pandemic.

Related to the pandemic, Chong can discuss:

  • Writer’s block
  • Online book clubs
  • Antiracist associations

Mahmudur Fatmi, Assistant Professor, School of Engineering

Availability: Wednesday, most hours and Thursday, 8:30 am to noon PST
mahmudur.fatmi@ubc.ca

Dr. Fatmi is a transportation modelling expert. He can talk about how people’s travel and online activities such as work-from-home and online shopping activities have changed during the pandemic, and the implications of these changes.

Related to the pandemic, Dr. Fatmi can discuss:

  • Working from home
  • Changes to transit during the pandemic
  • Online shopping trends

Ross Hickey, Associate Professor, Faculty of Management and Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Availability: Wednesday, 2 to 2:30 pm PST and Thursday, 2:30to 3:30 pm PST
ross.hickey@ubc.ca

Dr. Hickey is an economist who specializes in public finance, fiscal policy, government expenditure and taxation. Related to the pandemic, Dr. Hickey can speak about:

  • Inflation

Susan Holtzman, Associate Professor, Psychology, Irving K Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Availability: Thursday, 9 am to noon PST
susan.holtzman@ubc.ca

Dr. Holtzman conducts research in health psychology with a special interest in stress and coping, close relationships, depression and social relationships in the digital age. Related to the pandemic, Holtzman can discuss:

  • perceived increase in screen time for young children
  • digital relationships
  • breaking or keeping digital habits after two years of screen time

Jonathan Little, Associate Professor, School of Health and Exercise Sciences

Availability: Wednesday and Thursday, 9 to 11 am PST
jonathan.little@ubc.ca

Dr. Little’s main research interest is on how to optimize exercise and nutritional strategies to prevent and treat health issues including Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and chronic inflammatory conditions. He is also involved in interdisciplinary research within the Airborne Disease Transmission Research Cluster around mitigating risk of aerosol transmission in health-care settings.

Related to the pandemic, Dr. Little can discuss:

  • Physical activity/exercise during COVID-19
  • Impact of exercise and lifestyle on immune function
  • Aerosols and COVID-19 transmission

Katrina Plamondon, Assistant Professor School of Nursing

Availability: Wednesday, various times in the afternoon PST, Thursday, 7 to 8 am, 11:30 am to noon, 2 to 3 pm PST
katrina.plamondon@ubc.ca

Dr. Plamondon’s research focuses on questions of how to advance equity action and vaccine equity. Related to the pandemic, Dr. Plamondon can discuss:

  • Populism and social movements (e.g., convoy) and what this has to do with equity and rights
  • Vaccine equity, particularly the relationship between global vaccine equity and how we can navigate the pandemic
  • Equity considerations as we transition out of pandemic restrictions (e.g., lifting mask restrictions)
  • Equity impacts and health systems considerations

The post UBCO experts discuss what’s changed after two years of COVID-19 appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

A photo of André Picard

Globe and Mail health reporter André Picard will discuss the COVID-19 aftermath at a free, virtual presentation March 14.

What: What’s Next: The COVID Aftermath
Who: Award-winning journalist André Picard
When: Monday, March 14, from 7 to 8:15 pm
Venue: Free, online virtual event

As Canada wraps up the second full year of living under pandemic conditions and begins to dial back restrictions, UBC Okanagan hosts award-winning journalist André Picard who will discuss the next steps of the COVID-19 aftermath.

The Globe and Mail health reporter and columnist has been described as one of Canada’s top health and public policy observers and commentators. In 2020, he was the first person to publicly declare Canada should “shut it down” and implement physical distancing guidelines.

He has covered all angles of the pandemic—from the status of frontline workers, to the implications for older adults and youth, to the impact on our workplaces. And as restrictions and guidelines continually change, he will discuss what we have learned, what the country could have done better, and that at some point, some good should come from all of this.

Picard is the author of five bestselling books, an eight-time nominee for the National Newspaper Awards and past winner of the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service Journalism.

His presentation is part of UBCO’s Embrace Aging Month, a month-long series of events to highlight ways people can age well and in-place. Picard’s event is co-hosted by the Faculty of Health and Social Development and the Institute for Healthy Living and Chronic Disease Prevention.

More information and a registration link to this free, public event can be found at: events.ok.ubc.ca/event/whats-next-the-covid-aftermath-with-andre-picard

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Senior man doing balance exercise

March is Embrace Aging month and UBC Okanagan has a full month of events and activities that promote healthy aging.

With spring around the corner, UBC Okanagan is organizing a series of events to help the region’s aging population keep a spring in their steps.

Embrace Aging Month is organized by UBCO’s Institute for Healthy Living and Chronic Disease Prevention (IHLCDP) in partnership with Interior Savings Credit Union and Interior Health. It is 31 days of activities to celebrate the joy of aging and at the same time provide tips and ideas on how to live every day to its fullest, explains Dr. Joan Bottorff, Professor of Nursing and IHLCDP Director.

While there are a number of activities and information sessions, a key event will be a webinar hosted by André Picard, health reporter and columnist for The Globe and Mail. Taking place on March 14 via Zoom, Picard will share his in-depth insights on post-pandemic health reform and discuss lessons all Canadians can take away after living with the COVID-19 pandemic for two years.

As one of Canada’s top health and public policy observers and commentators, Picard has covered all angles of the pandemic—from the status of frontline workers, to the implications for older adults and youth, to the impact on our workplaces.

“We are honoured to have André Picard’s insights as part of our Embrace Aging month,” says Dr. Bottorff. “Mr. Picard is a well-respected journalist who has become a popular advocate and expert about good physical and mental health for all Canadians.”

Now in its ninth year, Embrace Aging is a jam-packed calendar of events ranging from group walks with UBCO students and faculty, tips for aging at home, a webinar highlighting the signs, symptoms and solutions of caregiver burnout, a music therapy session and even a yoga lesson that promotes laughter. There are also presentations by UBCO researchers sharing new evidence on a range of topics from the effects of climate change on health to virtual health care, as well as opportunities to get involved in science projects with kids.

A Café Scientifique takes place on March 2, where the latest research on growing older at home will be presented by UBCO’s Aging in Place Eminence Research Cluster. The goal of this, and all other Embrace Aging events, is to create awareness and educational opportunities for older adults and their families to learn the many aspects of good physical, mental and social health.

“While Embrace Aging Month brings into focus the importance of supporting older adults in our communities, the sessions are for young and old alike,” she adds. “We have tried to think of something for just about everyone.”

Other highlights of the month include free visits to the YMCA, an electric bike demonstration, a games and virtual reality webinar where participants can learn about immersive technologies, floor projection and wearable sensors.

Embrace Aging events are free and open to the public. They begin Tuesday, March 1 and continue throughout the month. For a full event schedule and registration details, visit: okanaganembraceaging.com

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UBCO School of Nursing Professor Dr. Nelly Oelke explains why those in the smaller towns need support more than ever before.

UBCO School of Nursing Professor Dr. Nelly Oelke explains why those in the smaller towns need support more than ever before.

Multiple stressors impact those living in small, rural communities

A team of researchers with British Columbia’s three interior universities are reaching out to residents in small communities to see how they are coping. The project is being conducted with faculty at UBC Okanagan, Thompson Rivers University and the University of Northern British Columbia. UBCO School of Nursing Professor Dr. Nelly Oelke explains why those in the smaller towns need support more than ever before.

Can you explain why researchers are concerned about people’s mental health?

Globally, we are in the midst of three overlapping crises: the COVID-19 pandemic, racism and climate change. The toxic drug crisis in BC has worsened as well. Research has shown that climate change events, such as wildfires and flooding, negatively influence both the physical and mental health of those impacted. And it’s well known that public health measures, such as self-isolation, combined with social and physical distancing, have resulted in social isolation, fear, financial challenges, and public uncertainty. As a result, mental health and substance-use issues — including anxiety, depression, increased substance use and overdose — have surged.

People imagine life in a small, rural BC town as less stressful than city life. But you’re saying the opposite might be true.

Rural communities are unequally affected by both the pandemic and climate change, and when these factors occur together the impact on individual and community mental health and well-being is markedly increased. Given these multiple crises that are affecting rural communities, it is important to enhance individual and community resilience.

You’re looking at three specific communities in your research. Why these three?

Our research focuses on three rural communities: Ashcroft, Burns Lake and Keremeos, although our survey is open to all rural residents in the province. Each of these communities has been impacted significantly over the last three years by one or more climate change events — including wildfires and severe flooding. While dealing with this, they have also had to deal with the challenges caused by the pandemic.

What sort of information are you looking for?

To better understand these impacts on community members, we are conducting a survey for those aged 15 years and over who live, work, or go to school in one of the three communities.

We will also be conducting community consultations and interviews in each community to better understand the residents’ needs and experiences during times like these.

People completing the survey can also share photos, stories, drawings, poems or other forms of expression to elaborate on their experiences with climate change events and COVID-19.

Once all responses have been collected and analyzed, we will conduct discussion sessions in each community to co-create solutions for resiliency in each of the communities.

What’s the next step?

This research will produce important findings about the impacts of the pandemic and climate change events on mental health in rural communities. Further, the solutions we develop with the survey respondents will promote resiliency and assist with the challenges they are facing and will continue to face moving forward. We hope that the information gathered in this study, as well as the benefits it may bring, will reach all rural communities in BC and beyond.

Can residents in other communities participate? How can they get involved?

While we have identified three different communities, our survey is open to all rural residents in BC over the age of 15 years. If people are interested in participating or want to gather more information about the study, they can contact Nelly Oelke at nelly.oelke@ubc.ca, Bonnie Fournier at bofournier@tru.ca, or Davina Banner-Lukaris at Davina.Banner-Lukaris@unbc.ca.

To complete the survey visit: ubc.ca1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_etFlMuUCZXjSklL

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About UBC’s Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Brothers, Adrian, left, and Quinn Van de Mosselaer took dramatically different paths leading to them joining the School of Nursing as first-year students. The Shuswap Nation brothers, who live together, take a break outside Kelowna General Hospital after a clinical session.

Brothers, Adrian, left, and Quinn Van de Mosselaer took dramatically different paths leading to them joining the School of Nursing as first-year students. The Shuswap Nation brothers, who live together, take a break outside Kelowna General Hospital after a clinical session.

Transition from hockey enforcer to nurse, inspired by Christmas gift

Most gifts from a younger sibling are rarely memorable. But for Christmas 2019, Adrian Van de Mosselaer received a present from his brother that would change his life.

The older Van de Mosselaer was trying to find a path after his professional hockey career wrapped up. While he had toyed with the idea of returning to school for many years, something kept him from taking that important step to actually register for classes. On an annual basis, he checked in with UBC Okanagan’s Aboriginal Programs and Services (APS) staff to discuss the Aboriginal access studies program. But it always ended there.

It was Quinn Van de Mosselaer, eight years Adrian’s junior, who bought his older brother high school textbooks for upgrading that Christmas and created a path for Adrian to enrol in Okanagan College courses. Those books, once cracked open, led to a spot in UBC Okanagan’s School of Nursing.

“I would always question myself but I hit a tipping point when my brother bought me the books and said, ‘That’s it, time to go to school,’” says 30-year-old Adrian. “I never thought I’d be relying on him to stand up and do that.”

Adrian embraced learning—partially to show his little brother he could do it — and partially to thank Quinn for believing in him.

“When I got that first good grade back, I couldn’t believe it,” he says. “I earned 100 per cent on a biology test. It was so good to know I could do the work. I was beyond grateful. Pure happiness.”

Through a twist of fate, Quinn, although starting his post-secondary journey earlier, is now in the first-year nursing program with Adrian. Those books, he says, might go down as the best Christmas present he’s ever bought and the Whispering Pines/Clinton Indian Band members are now study buddies.

“I know my brother pretty well. I know he was procrastinating. I knew if I bought him the books, it would push him to do it. And once he puts his mind to something, he can do it,” says Quinn who was initially tracking towards a science degree.

“When we first applied, we didn’t think both of us would get into the nursing program. But it’s been good being in the same program as my brother. We live at home and it helps being so close with someone in the same program.”

For Adrian, taking part in the clinical studies at Kelowna General Hospital is a long way from his first career path as a professional hockey player. He started his junior career with the Western Hockey League’s Edmonton Oil Kings before moving on to playing three aggressive years with the East Coast Hockey League’s team Ontario Reign, based in California. His role leaned more towards keeping the opposition honest and sticking up for his teammates.

“I wanted to be that heart-and-soul kind of guy. My teammates knew I would stand up for them in any situation. Except maybe in a shootout,” recalls Adrian with a laugh.

When professional players try to take their game to the next level, this gritty play often generates attrition on both benches. It was when teammates were taken off the ice due to injury that Adrian’s interest in healing initially sparked.

“When guys got hurt, I was curious about what was happening in the training room. I was curious on how they got put back together,” he says. “I ended up suffering a head and neck injury and that made me re-evaluate what I was doing. How much of this could I really sustain?

“Then my cousin sat down and chatted with me about school. It stirred that curiosity within me,” he says. “But my self-doubt was huge.”

Making the transition from pro hockey life to full-time student was paved with second guessing his own abilities. Negative previous experiences in school, and fear of the unknown, held him back.

Now, he wonders what took him so long.

“The best advice I have for people is to be patient with yourself. Don’t hold yourself to any thoughts of not being capable. You have to let go of who you think you are and the limits on what you think you can do,” he adds. “What stuck in my head is that I wanted to help people to heal.”

After getting his nursing prerequisites in order, Adrian applied to UBCO’s nursing program. He was successful and he and credits the APS staff for supporting his journey.

Once accustomed to being cheered from the sidelines for acting as a hockey enforcer, Adrian is now aware he has a new team of supporters fully behind him. And he has no intention of letting them down.

“Being a student is beyond exciting. The patience and understanding I received from APS Student Advisor Kelly Fosbery and the team helped me along to UBCO. I know the team is rooting for me the whole way.”

About UBC’s Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Atrial fibrillation is the most commonly diagnosed arrhythmia in the world. Despite that, many women do not understand the pre-diagnosis symptoms and tend to ignore them.

Atrial fibrillation is the most commonly diagnosed arrhythmia in the world. Despite that, many women do not understand the pre-diagnosis symptoms and tend to ignore them.

Ignoring medical symptoms can lead to stroke, dementia, early death

A UBC Okanagan researcher is urging people to learn and then heed the symptoms of atrial fibrillation (AF). Especially women.

Dr. Ryan Wilson, a postdoctoral fellow in the School of Nursing, says AF is the most commonly diagnosed arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) in the world. Despite that, he says many people do not understand the pre-diagnosis symptoms and tend to ignore them.

In fact, 77 per cent of the women in his most recent study had experienced symptoms for more than a year before receiving a diagnosis.

While working in a hospital emergency department (ED), Dr. Wilson noted that many patients came in with AF symptoms that included, but were not limited to, shortness of breath, feeling of butterflies (fluttering) in the chest, dizziness or general fatigue. Many women also experienced gastrointestinal distress or diarrhea. When diagnosed they admitted complete surprise — even though they had been experiencing the symptoms for a considerable time.

One in four strokes are AF related, he says. However, when people with AF suffer a stroke, their outcomes are generally worse than people who have suffered a stroke for other reasons.

“I would see so many patients in the ED who had just suffered a stroke but they had never been diagnosed with AF. I wanted to get a sense of their experience before diagnoses: what did they do before they were diagnosed, how they made their decisions, how they perceived their symptoms and ultimately, how they responded.”

Even though his study group was small, what he learned was distressing.

“Ten women, in comparison to only three men, experienced symptoms greater than one year,” says Dr. Wilson. “What’s really alarming is they also had more significant severity and frequency of their symptoms than men—yet they experience the longest amount of time between onset of symptoms and diagnosis.”

What really troubles Dr. Wilson are the reasons a diagnosis is delayed in women.

Many doubted their symptoms were serious, he says. They discounted them because they were tired, stressed, thought they related to other existing medical conditions, or even something they had eaten. Most women also had caregiving responsibilities that took precedence over their own health, and they chose to self-manage their symptoms by sitting, lying down, or breathing deeply until they stopped.

What’s more alarming, however, is that if women mentioned their symptoms to their family doctor, many said they simply felt dismissed.

“There was a lot more anger among several of the women because they had been told nothing was wrong by their health-care provider,” says Dr. Wilson. “To be repeatedly told there is nothing wrong, and then later find yourself in the emergency room with AF, was incredibly frustrating for these women. More needs to be done to support gender-sensitive ways to promote an early diagnosis regardless of gender.”

Dr. Wilson reports that none of the men in his study were upset about their interactions with their health-care providers, mostly because they were immediately sent for diagnostic tests.

“But a delay in diagnosis is not just in this study,” he cautions. “Women generally wait longer than men for diagnosis with many ailments. Sadly, with AF and other critical illnesses, the longer a person waits, the shorter time there is to receive treatments. Statistically, women end up with a worse quality of life.”

Dr. Wilson, who is currently working on specific strategies to help people manage AF, admits the condition is often hard to diagnose because some of the symptoms are vague. Ideally, he would like people to be as knowledgeable about AF as they are about the symptoms and risks of stroke and heart attacks. As the population is living longer, the number of people with AF continues to increase. In fact, about 15 per cent of people over the age of 80 will be diagnosed with the condition.

“People know what to do for other cardiovascular diseases, it’s not the same with AF,” he adds. “And while the timeline may not be as essential as a stroke for diagnosis and care, there is still a substantial risk of life-limiting effects such as stroke, heart failure and dementia. Reason enough, I hope, for people to seek out that diagnosis.”

Dr. Wilson’s study was recently published in the Western Journal of Nursing Research.

About UBC’s Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca