april article 2022

INQ and RISUQ together for a healthy North

Published on

An arcticle by Valérie Levée, scientific journalist

To strengthen and enhance INQ’s "Health" axis, one of its five research axes, Mélanie Lemire, professor in the Faculty of Medicine at Université Laval, has joined forces with Cathy Vaillancourt, director Cathy Vaillancourt, directrice du le Réseau intersectoriel de recherche en santé de l’Université du Québec (RISUQ). This alliance will allow sustainable health to shine throughout Northern Quebec. A promising union of the strengths of RISUQ and INQ! 

RISUQ's intersectoral expertise

With over 50 years of expertise in health throughout Quebec via the Université du Québec (UQ) network, RISUQ, created in 2019, has many resources to contribute to northern health.  "UQ has strength in health and social services, field communities, and university researchers. We wanted to put all these people in a network to work together," says Cathy Vaillancourt. RISUQ's intersectoral approach brings together researchers from different fields of expertise, from basic research to the organization of health care and social services, to respond to current health issues, while considering the realities of the different regions. Because prevention is better than treatment, RISUQ focuses on prevention and rehabilitation by empowering individuals to take charge of their health through education and community awareness. In this way, individuals and communities can be proactive about their health, or in adapting or adjusting care. This approach favours collaboration between the various actors, whether citizen groups, communities of practice or the CISSS and CIUSSS, for the co-creation of knowledge and raising awareness, as well as improved care based on the real needs of individuals and communities. 

The association of RISUQ with INQ

With the goal of implementing the RISUQ approach in Northern Quebec, Mélanie Lemire approached Cathy Vaillancourt. RISUQ is working on setting up an intersectoral partnership research chair in "Health and Indigenous perspectives" based at Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue (UQAT), which already has considerable expertise in working with Indigenous peoples.

"RISUQ will bring the experience in intersectoral health already developed in the “Near North” and work with the knowledge stemming from INQ research in the Far North. I see this as a perfect collaboration," aspires Cathy Vaillancourt.

She imagines, among other things, avenues of research on food security or on women's health. However, one thing is clear: "It will have to be decided by the community, respecting their traditions and our intersectoral approach," says Ms. Vaillancourt.

Maternal and child health in the North:

Cathy Vaillancourt has her own research interests that she plans to develop with northern communities. She and her team are studying the effects of stress and environmental contaminants on pregnancy, fetal development and the health of the mother and unborn child. The lab’s primary focus is the placenta. "Certain types of stress can lead to alterations in the placenta, which can lead to risks of developing cognitive or metabolic diseases," she explains. The placenta produces, among other things, molecules such as serotonin and melatonin that are involved in brain development. By studying the expression of genes in the placenta, Cathy Vaillancourt is looking to identify markers that could help assess a child's risk of developing certain disorders in order to eventually prevent them. Northern communities continue to face ongoing stresses such as sedentarization and climate change. A collaborative study, co-constructed in partnership with communities, could lead to a better understanding of the impacts of these stresses and contribute to sustainable health.

And because human populations are not the only ones to suffer from environmental stresses, Cathy Vaillancourt has a childhood dream: to study the placenta of marine mammals!

To learn more :

RISUQ: https://risuq.uquebec.ca/  

La chaire en partenariat du RISUQ “Santé et perspectives autochtones” https://risuq.uquebec.ca/reseau-de-chaires/les-chaires/sante-et-perspectives-autochtones/ 

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