A wide variety of applied health research at Red Deer College is helping to achieve results on the ground, almost immediately.
RDC faculty and students are involved with about 17 studies now underway for Alberta Health Services and other organizations.
One study is investigating the physical and psychological benefits of yoga on cancer patients/survivors. Each group completed pre and post tests assessing stress, quality of life, coping and physical function. Preliminary findings suggest the yoga program improved the psychological health of participants and was perceived as beneficial to those involved.
Research is being conducted on how best to reduce adverse drug effects on seniors. The college is interviewing doctors and nurses.
Another study is taking a community-based approach on how to prevent HIV and AIDS in aboriginal communities. Aboriginal people are involved in the creation of a public awareness program.
In early 2009, college instructor Scott Oddie was named rural health researcher and as part of that was asked to direct the Health Research Collaborative. This advisory panel, which includes a number of stakeholders and health experts, determines local health issues that need to be researched.
Sometimes the college will collaborate with universities, but it’s not doing peer research as they do.
“It’s about implementing results,” said Eric Kokko, RDC director of the Applied Research and Innovation Department as well as the Centre for Innovation and Advanced Marketing. “Universities do research and they publish. We do research and we make it happen. When you put the word ‘applied’ in front of research, it’s a whole different ball game.”
The college partners with health care professionals, including physicians and physiotherapists, and other stakeholders while the research is conducted.
It did a collaborative project involving 13 schools on enhancing body image. The program provided six interactive learning sessions delivered by trained RDC students between November 2010 and March 2011.
As many as 100 students each year have been hired to do research. They are commonly from nursing, psychology, sociology and kinesiology programs.
Kokko said the studies are intended to come up with strengths and flaws.
“Some things that Alberta Health Services are doing are really good, but they need to know that it’s really good,” said Kokko. “They want to see where improvements can happen.”
Another Alberta collaborative known as SEARCH, or Swift Efficient Application of Research in Community Health, has also sought out the college for research.
Alberta Rural Development Network — a partnership of Alberta’s 21 publicly-funded, publicly-governed colleges, universities and technical institutes — has paid for research as well.
The college is doing a community needs assessment in Three Hills as a way to improve wellness. This project will look at what services and programs are provided in the small community and what kind of improvements are needed.
Research is paid through the organizations, as well as from community-based funding and government dollars. The college may come up with the research ideas or from the groups themselves.
“There’s not that many people doing this kind of work in Alberta or Canada,” said Kokko. “Applied research in health sciences is very hard to do and it’s very hard to get people that are good at it — that understand how to deliver quality research that’s going to be useful.”
The amount of money that goes towards health care in Alberta is huge, so if the college can save money and improve service delivery, that’s great news for everyone, Kokko said.