Research Underway

The purpose of this section is to serve notice of current Canadian research so that those wishing more information, or to collaborate, or to avoid duplicating on-going work can find out what is underway and not yet published.

Contact us with information on your current research for posting in this section.

Androgen deprivation therapy is a common treatment used to control prostate cancer. About 50% of prostate cancer patients receive androgen deprivation therapy. This therapy has many side effects, including a decrease in bone health, an increase in bone fracture risk, weight gain, and interpersonal relationship changes. 96% of men with prostate cancer will survive five or more years post-diagnosis, but many will live with side effects of the disease and treatment, and may develop related chronic conditions. Nutrition can have a role in preventing or lessening the impact of some of the side effects.  Cooking classes are a known effective way to teach nutrition information. Because dietary decisions and changes are often made in discussion with partners, the cooking classes in this study will be offered to men with prostate cancer and their partners. We are interested in studying whether cooking classes are helpful to men with prostate cancer who are receiving androgen deprivation therapy and their partners in making healthier nutrition decisions. Study participants will complete a six-session hands-on cooking class and nutrition education program, which may help manage treatment side effects. The program will focus on improving knowledge about nutrition for androgen deprivation therapy patients. It will also offer tips in food preparation and how to modify recipes, as well as provide other nutritional information. Each class will involve hands-on activities requiring both the patient and their partner to participate. All classes will have sampling of healthy dishes. Recipes and resource information will be provided. We will evaluate the program usefulness, and study other factors that may contribute to health promotion success. There is no cost to participate. Purpose: We will evaluate the program usefulness, and study other factors that may contribute to health promotion success. This study will help us learn how to better manage the side effects of prostate cancer treatment and how to prevent other types of cancer and chronic conditions. Participants: Men with prostate cancer who are receiving androgen deprivation therapy, and their partner.

Time: To be determined
Location: Vancouver
Art Modalities: Culinary Arts

University of British Columbia
Cancer Prevention Centre
Principle Investigator: Carolyn Gotay
Initiative Contact: Svetlana Ristovski-Slijepcevic
Email: | Web: | Phone: 604-822-3486

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The purpose of this research is to study a standard (such as treadmills and stationary bicycles) and a culturally relevant exercise program (Bhangra) in post-menopausal South Asian women. South Asian origin refers to individuals who have grandparents from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka. We are focusing this study on post-menopausal women as body fat distribution may change with menopause and affect heart health. We are interested in seeing how 12 weeks of these exercise programs affects levels of body fat (specifically abdominal fat) and heart health compared to participants who will be asked not to exercise.  Purpose: The aim of the South Asian Exercise Trial (SAET) is to test the efficacy of a standard aerobic exercise program and a culturally acceptable Bhangra dance exercise program on body fat distribution and cardiovascular disease risk factors in postmenopausal South Asian women. This information will allow us to determine appropriate exercise programming for post-menopausal South Asian women.  Participants: 75 post-menopausal South Asian women who are physically inactive and who do not have diabetes or heart disease will complete this program.  Outcomes: Body Fat Distribution, Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Aerobic Fitness and Adherence.

Partners: Surrey Recreation
Time: January 2014 – February 2015
Location: Surrey
Art Modalities: Dance/Movement Therapy

Simon Fraser University
Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology and Health Sciences
Principle Investigator: Dr. Scott Lear
Initiative Contact: Iris Lesser
Email: | Web: | Phone: 778-782-7748

This study will examine the relationship between gender identity, violence and place in the lives of transgender and gender nonconforming (T/GNC) people, and the impact on their mental health and wellbeing. The project uses Photovoice - a participatory action research method where co-researchers take photos, share stories and use these for social action.  Purpose: Studies reveal that T/GNC people experience pervasive and multiple forms of violence in numerous public and private places, suggesting they may be more vulnerable to violence across their lifespan than the general population. This study will develop knowledge about the intersections between violence, gender identity/expression, place and mental health in the lives of T/GNC people. It will investigate the strategies that T/GNC people develop and use to prevent and resist violence and maintain their mental health, as well as how different contexts (including, but not limited to, geography, gender discrimination, transphobia, homophobia, racism, and/or poverty) undermine or enhance safety, belonging, resiliency and mental health. The study will offer an in-depth understanding of how the enforcement of gender norms impacts the mental health and wellbeing of Canadians, and will have broad implications for the development of best practices and protocols for trauma-informed and gender-sensitive mental health services, health promotion and violence prevention/intervention with marginalized communities.  Participants: Self-identified trans and gender nonconforming adults who are 19 years and older. Approximately 30 people will be involved including community advisory members. 

Framework/Philosophy: The study will use Photovoice, a qualitative, community-based participatory research (CBPR) method that combines photography, dialogue and social action (McIntyre, 2003; Wang, 1999). Consistent with the principles of CBPR, this project is being developed and conducted in collaboration with trans and gender nonconforming people, to address community health concerns and strategies for action. CBPR methodologies are well suited for marginalized populations who have historically been left out of research processes or who have experienced discrimination or barriers to health care access. Collaborative research can build confidence and trust within a community, improve study validity, and the results can be used to improve the health of the community in various ways including influencing education, policy and protocols (Catalani, C. & Minkler, 2010). Data will be analyzed using thematic content analysis through the lens of intersectionality theory, wherein themes identified will be considered in the context of participants’ potential experiences of multiple, intersecting oppressions. Intersectionality theory examines how different systems of social marginalization and power work together. Other frameworks informing this work include critical studies in gender, sexuality, race and Indigenous knowledge.

Partners: Community members (not identified by name here for reasons of confidentiality)
Time: September 2013 - August 2016
Location: Vancouver and Okanagan Valley
Art Modalities: Photography, Storytelling with Photos

Simon Fraser University
Faculty of Health Sciences, Centre for the Study of Gender, Social Inequities and Mental Health
Principle Investigator:  Dr. Cindy Holmes, MSFHR Postdoctoral Fellow
Email: | Web:

Alzheimer Disease (AD) is common, representing about 64% of all dementias in Canada. In addition to memory problems, AD patients often develop psychological and behavioural symptoms such as depression, agitation, anxiety, and aggression.  Music therapy is a safe and low-cost intervention that has been applied in residential care settings. Observational studies suggested potential benefits such as decreased agitation and improved social interactions. Other studies also found that the ability to remember music can be preserved even into the late stages of dementia. Music therapy makes use of remaining brain functions and is believed to maximize the patient’s expression and communication ability to improve their function, enjoyment, sense of self-worth, and quality of life. However, evidence is lacking from well-designed randomized controlled studies.

Our group has completed two randomized controlled trials and the results are pending. In the first music therapy study, patients with mild to moderate AD received 4 weeks of individualized music therapy and measurements of cognition and behaviour were taken before and after the music therapy intervention. Also measured were pre and post-intervention morning salivary cortisol levels to determine the change in biological stress response of music therapy. As well, fMRI studies were included to assess areas of brain activation before and after intervention in order to correlate any cognitive changes and health benefits from the music therapy. For the second music therapy study, patients with mild to moderate AD and their caregivers received 10 weeks of group music therapy. Measurements of stress hormones, behaviour, memory, and quality of life before and after the intervention were taken.  Purpose: To determine, using randomized controlled studies, whether music therapy has beneficial effects for patients with Alzheimer disease.  Participants: Patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer disease were enrolled.  Outcomes: Memory, cognition, behaviour, and quality of life measurements, stress hormone measurements, and brain activation, using fMRI.

Partners: Funding from: Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, Alzheimer Society of Canada/CIHR/Canadian Nurses Foundation/Parkinson Society of Canada
Time: October 2010 - Ongoing
Location: Vancouver
Art Modalities: Music Therapy

University of British Columbia, Department of Medicine, Division of Neurology
Clinic for Alzheimer Disease and Related Disorders
Principal Investigator: Dr. Ging-Yuek Robin Hsiung, Dr. Kevin Kirkland
Email: | Web: 

“Executive Functions” (EFs) make it possible for us to think before we act, resist temptations, stay focused, mentally play with ideas, reason, & quickly adapt to changed circumstances. Not surprisingly, they are predictive of achievement, health, wealth, & quality of life throughout life. We want to test a theory proposed by Dr. Adele Diamond that activities that most successfully improve EFs will be those that not only provide train & challenge EFs (working to directly improving them) but those that *also indirectly support EFs* by reducing things that disrupt EFs (like stress) and/or by increasing things that aid EFs (like social support). We propose that some of the activities that do that best are the arts & physical activities. They challenge EFs (demanding focused concentration, holding complex sequences in mind, etc.), make us happy & proud (participants see very concretely that with effort they can succeed), address social needs (involve working together toward a valued, shared goal), & help improve physical skills and fitness. Thus we propose that the arts & physical exercise may be critical for the best health & best educational outcomes for our children. 

Purpose: The kinds of studies we are eager and ready to do, if we can only obtain funding, include: 1. Examining possible benefits of Social Dance for EFs & academic outcomes, & for emotional, social, & physical health; 2. Possible benefits of Youth Circus (YC) for EFs & academic outcomes, & for emotional, social, & physical health; 3. Study of EF benefits from learning to play an instrument as part of an ensemble from the start versus learning to play an instrument alone first; 4. Storytelling as an aid to help kindergarten (K) children develop better EFs.  Participants: Depending on the study, children would be anywhere from 4 to 16 years of age, both genders, all ethnicities, & all economic means (but especially focusing on children living in poverty or whose families have limited means). No one would be excluded because of a developmental disorder or learning disability, unless their safety might be at risk by participating.  Outcomes: We will do assessments just before each program starts, immediately after their last session of the year, and then once a year thereafter for as long as we have funding (especially for Studies 1 & 2). We assess several different components of EFs, academic performance, physical fitness & skills, mood, & social well-being.

Time: Ongoing
Location: Vancouver and other communities in the Lower Mainland
Art Modalities: Dance/Movement, Drama/Theatre, Music, Singing, Storytelling/Poetry, Clowning

University of British Columbia
Faculty of Medicine, Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience Lab
Principal Investigator: Dr. Adele Diamond
Initiative Contact: Daphne Ling or David Abbott
Email: | Web: | Phone: 604 827-3074