Caring for everybody: A celebration of research partnerships

A celebration of research partnerships between Academic Healthcare Organizations and Canada’s health charities

Q& A with the Association of Canadian Academic Healthcare Organizations (ACAHO) and the Health Charities Coalition of Canada (HCCC).

From the discovery of genes that cause disease to the development of new treatments and new policies and practices that improve our health, Canada’s Health Charities and Academic Healthcare Organizations partner for success in health research to the benefit of the health and health systems of Canadians.

In a first-of-its kind joint publication, the Association of Canadian Academic Healthcare Organizations (ACAHO) and the Health Charities Coalition of Canada (HCCC), examine a selection of partnerships between their member organizations and how these partnerships contribute to our collective health and well-being.  The full report can be found on their respective websites.

We sat down for a Q&A with the two organizations about how health charities and academic healthcare organizations partner for success in health research:

Why did ACAHO and HCCC partner on this celebrations report?

Members of ACAHO and HCCC have a well-kept but unintended secret – thousands of successful partnerships in health research and applied innovation. Our goal is to help share this secret so that a growing number of Canadians, have a clear sense of how academic healthcare organizations and health charities work together to improve the health of Canadians and the healthcare they receive.

What is a Health Charity?

Health Charities are charitable organizations that often focus on a particular illness or organ system. They envision: (1) the complete eradication of a disease; (2) finding a cure for a disease; (3) improving quality of life for individuals with a particular disease or condition and/or (4) supporting families, friends and caregivers of individuals with acute and/or chronic diseases. They fund research and applied health innovation, provide education and influence policy development, implementation and evaluation.

What is an Academic Healthcare Organization?

Academic Healthcare Organizations are research hospitals and academic regional health authorities that do three things: (1) they provide complex and advanced care; (2) they engage in leading edge research for new treatments and practices that directly benefit patients and all Canadians; and (3) they educate and train tomorrow’s health care professionals.

Why do ACAHO and HCCC members partner in Research?

Members of ACAHO & HCCC bring funds, focus, patients, clinicians and researchers together to support people and families at risk of, or coping with, disease or disability. This improves care, treatment, quality of life, and enables access to leading-edge treatments and world-class equipment and facilities.

How do Canada’s Health Charities & Academic Healthcare Organizations contribute to advancing knowledge and treating disease?

In the case studies that we looked at in this celebrations project, we noted that the research projects are (1) helping to discover genes that cause disease; (2) understanding the way disease works; (3) developing and testing potential therapies; (4) applying research and innovation in patient care; (5) changing operating policies and clinical practices; and (6) building expertise by training clinician scientists who blend research and care. However, it should be noted that the focus here is only on the case studies in this report. Other important types of research are also conducted by both health charities and academic healthcare organizations.

How many lives can be impacted by specific research partnerships?

The report identifies research undertaken in 12 disease specific areas, where the health of over 17 million Canadians is affected, and over 121,000 die each year.

What factors do researchers say are needed to achieve success?

Many factors affect research success, but common ones in the partnerships examined consistently included: (1) Proximity of research to patients and families and its integration in patient care (2) The ability to work in networks, with mentors, and inter disciplinary teams (3) Funding to cover salaries, operations and access to latest equipment and facilities.

What are a few examples of what we have collectively achieved? 

There are many examples that we could give, but here are a few from the case studies examined in this initiative,

• We improved survival rates after heart attacks by demonstrating the impact of CPR

• We tested a potential drug for ALS and developed a process to test others

• We found a way to slow liver cancer so that treatment can have a chance to work

• We found a gene that when replaced helps some individuals to regain their sight. • We enabled advanced training of a clinician researcher for Parkinson’s disease

• We provided evidence resulting in adding exercise to the guideline for diabetes care •

We showed how engaging Lupus patients in the care process can reduce side effects

• We identified factors that would affect, treat, or help prevent Irritable Bowel Syndrome.