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CIHR chairs to advance key health research

January 8, 2009

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Two CIHR research chairs—one focusing on the well-being of girls and young women, the other examining how sex, gender and diversity influence health-care policy—have been awarded to two SFU researchers.

Marlene Moretti, who holds a special university professorship, and public policy associate professor Olena Hankivsky will each be supported for a five-year term by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Institute of Gender and Health.

Together, the research chairs are worth more than $1.6 million.

Moretti, recipient of the only CIHR Senior Scientist Research Chair to be awarded in Western Canada, is investigating issues of gender, aggression and risk reduction in youth.

"Our focus is on youth who are at a high risk for victimization and involvement in violence, their complex mental health needs and the social and interpersonal contexts that place them at risk," explains Moretti.

Findings from her longitudinal research with youth in Canada and the U.S. show that for many youth, care giving seems to be the "backbone of resilience."

Olena Hankivsky’s goal is to investigate the sex, gender and diversity impacts of health reform, and help develop policies to improve the effectiveness of health services and programs for vulnerable and marginalized populations.

While tools addressing the needs of these populations have been developed using sex- and gender-based analyses in health research, Hankivsky says there are other issues of diversity, including the relationships between gender and class, age, geography, sexuality, race/ethnicity and religion.

Not taking these factors into account in health research and planning, she adds, can result in economic and human costs for patients—from ill health to an ineffective health-care system.

Hankivsky is also the recipient of a Senior Scholar Career Award in Population Health from the Michael Smith Foundation—a $500,000, five-year project focusing on B.C.’s most recent health reforms as well as innovative health service and policy changes in Canada and international jurisdictions.

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