For immediate release – April 28, 2011 – (Toronto, ON) – Today, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is bringing research to Ontario communities with Canada’s first known mobile research laboratory dedicated to research on mental health, substance use and violence problems.
“The mobile research lab fills a gap by bringing world-class research by epidemiologists, neuroscientists and social scientists to communities that are far from research centres,” says Dr. Bruce G. Pollock, CAMH’s Vice-President of Research.
With this lab, the project Researching Health in Ontario Communities (RHOC) is rolling into the city of Port Colborne for approximately three months, before moving to nearby Welland.
As part of the RHOC project, CAMH scientists will be conducting a series of studies looking at stress, substance use, mental health, violence and health service experiences. The findings will help inform prevention and treatment services in Port Colborne and other communities that the lab will visit.
One study, headed by Dr. Nick Kates and Dr. Samantha Wells, will look at the health care experiences of individuals with co-occurring mental health and substance use problems to identify strengths and gaps in the treatment system. Another, led by Dr. Kate Graham, will explore issues around conflict in intimate partner relationships, with the long-term goal of identifying ways of preventing violence in these relationships.
A key aspect of RHOC, which is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), is to engage local agencies. In particular, RHOC involves establishing an advisory committee in all participating communities with representatives from local and regional health and social service agencies. This enables researchers to learn about local issues, and facilitates use of research results by community representatives.
“We are delighted by the enthusiastic response in Port Colborne and by the project’s local advisory committee,” says Dr. Samantha Wells, a CAMH scientist and the lead researcher on RHOC. “This close collaboration will ensure that we can deliver meaningful research results to local agencies to benefit the community in the long term.”
Port Colborne residents will be seeing posters and advertisements about RHOC inviting them to participate in the research. The project’s local research assistants will also be knocking on residents’ doors and inviting them to come to the mobile lab. Wells notes, “The studies focus on a wide range of topics relevant to many Ontarians, not just people with mental health or substance use problems. For example, one study focuses on stress, and just about everyone has experienced stress some time in their life.” The lab will be parked in downtown Port Colborne, adjacent to the Boggio Pharmacy, making it easily accessible to residents.
“This CAMH Mobile Research Lab is a perfect fit for our community,” says Port Colborne Mayor Vance Badawey. “We are encouraged by the incredible opportunity that this research will provide to furthering our Health Care Service Plan for Port Colborne. Enhancing all of our disease prevention strategies with our partnering agencies including mental health programs is a goal that will be reached with the data obtained with this research.”
The mobile lab will be used to conduct interviews and surveys, run focus groups, and take hair and saliva samples to measure stress or obtain genetic information. This information will produce knowledge about Ontario communities that is often not available from large-scale provincial or national surveys. Over time, as information is gathered from across the province, CAMH researchers will create a powerful database that will advance our collective knowledge of stress, mental health, violence and substance use problems.
“The research lab is a major milestone of CAMH’s Research Renaissance Project, which is our largest ever scientific endeavour,” notes Dr. Pollock. “The lab reflects the project’s vision of working from the neuron to the neighbourhood level to advance our understanding, treatment and prevention of mental health and substance use problems.”
While RHOC is funded by the CIHR, the mobile research laboratory was purchased with a grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation.
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is Canada's largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital, as well as one of the world's leading research centres in its field. CAMH combines clinical care, research, education, policy development and health promotion to help transform the lives of people affected by mental health and addiction issues. CAMH is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, and is a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Centre. For more information, please visit www.camh.net