Abbotsford – The University of the Fraser Valley has teamed up with community partners to rapidly identify and apply innovations that will improve individual and community health.
The Community Health and Social Innovation Hub (CHASI) is a physical and virtual gathering space, bringing UFV researchers and students together with health and social service professionals to foster innovative thinking in the search for solutions to current and emerging challenges and opportunities.
Joining UFV as community partners are the First Nations Health Authority, Fraser Health, and the Divisions of Family Practice of Abbotsford, Chilliwack, and Mission, which represents family physicians in those regions.
Current areas of research being pursued by Hub researchers include the use of robotics and artificial intelligence in addressing social isolation in youth and older adults, fire safety in on-reserve communities, workflow analysis and team-based care in long-term care facilities, data collection on cannabis, and grief and work in a pandemic.
Dr. Martha Dow of UFV has been appointed as Director of the Community Health and Social Innovation Hub.
“Our community partners have identified a strong need for a place where researchers can develop evidence-informed, technology-driven interventions that support the social, mental, emotional, physical, and economic well-being of those living in our communities, particularly those who are most vulnerable,” says Dow. “And they have entrusted UFV with that special task. We are especially honoured that the three Divisions of Family Practice have directed $300,000 of the innovation funding they receive towards the Hub to help us launch.”
Dr. Presley Moodley and Dr. Adriaan Windt, Co-Chairs of the Abbotsford Division of Family Practice, are strongly supportive of the initiative.
“The Abbotsford Division of Family Practice is excited to initiate the Community Health and Social Innovation Hub at UFV,” they note. “It is only with academia and community working together through interdisciplinary research and data, that we can seek new ways to support the health and wellness of the Fraser East Region. We envision the opportunity and benefits of the Hub will serve the region for years. ”
The Hub is on the UFV Abbotsford campus, where UFV researchers are already working with physical distancing in place.
“The focus of the Hub is to support the translation of research into action. Our commitment to our community partners is to support a responsive, nimble, and flexible approach to research and ultimately the utilization of the results of those efforts,” Dow says. “It’s really all about bridging the university with the communities we serve through knowledge mobilization. We want to collaborate with our partners as we answer the question ‘given what we know, what should we do?’”
The Hub is multidisciplinary with projects already drawing on the expertise of faculty and students from a variety of disciplines, including nursing, psychology, sociology, kinesiology, economics, and computing sciences.
The Hub has partnered with Dr. Cindy Jardine, UFV’s Canada Research Chair in Health and Community, tapping into her federally funded research on the health information needs and gaps faced by families visiting friends and relatives in their countries of origin, as related to contagious diseases like COVID-19 and international travel.
“The synergy on this project was a great proof of concept as the Hub’s partnership with the Divisions of Family Practice provided the access to physicians that was a key component to the project,” says Dow.
After a visit to the HUB, UFV President Joanne MacLean is excited about its potential.
“The Hub will be an important space for our students to engage in research and for UFV to build relationships with our communities,” she said. “It is a true partnership, in that community stakeholders had an idea, the university responded with the establishment of the Hub, and community partners combined their annual funds for innovation to provide the seed funding.”
After completing graduate programs, UFV alumni Leah Bishop and Spencer Huesken have returned to UFV as research associates, with recent BA graduates Esther Jimenez Atochero, Chelsea Novakowski, and RuoYu Xiao turning their undergraduate research experience into positions with the Hub.
Dow sees great potential for the Hub.
“Our approach is centred on bringing researchers, students, and community partners to the table as we try to address some of the most critical challenges facing our communities and it is that spirit of collaboration and humility that will guide our practice,” she notes.