June 25, 2015 11:36 am

Here’s what parents, patients think researchers should study in Canada

In previous research, scientists learned that a disparity exists between academics and patients in what each group thinks is worth studying.

(Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Canadian researchers say that parents, patients and front line health care workers should have a say in what’s being studied when it comes to children’s health.

In new findings out of the Hospital for Sick Children, the scientists identify three key issues that resonate with parents, their families and pediatricians. How much screen time kids should have, appropriate discipline strategies and setting a routine sleep schedule are what they’re hoping scientists will start studying.

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“These topics we’ve identified are hot button issues that are very important for parents, and within these topics, there’s a lot of fantastic material that could be the focus of future scientific studies,” lead researcher, Dr. Mikael Katz-Lavigne, told Global News. He’s a pediatrician at SickKids, among other hospitals in the Greater Toronto Area.

“This is a new priority that’s come about in getting the public involved in research. There are many reasons why this is important – a large part of funding comes from taxpayers and donors and when you involve patients and families, it gives the public power in an environment dominated by researchers,” he explained.

READ MORE: What will help doctors improve their patient care?

In a time where funding dollars are hard to come by, the hope is Katz-Lavigne’s research will prevent doubling up on studies. It’ll also lead to concrete outcomes in patient care and garner interest from patient advocacy groups.

For his study, Katz-Lavigne had 115 parents (with kids who needed pediatric care) and 42 doctors respond to online questionnaires asking them what their priorities were in understanding children’s health. The scientists took the responses to see which issues weren’t addressed in medical literature yet – that list was sent to a steering group made up of parents and doctors so they could whittle the list down to 30 priorities.

At a follow-up workshop, they came together to make a list of 10. It will be published later this year.

READ MORE: Healthy doctors make healthy patients, Canadian study finds

In previous research, scientists learned that a disparity exists between academics and patients in what each group thinks is worth studying.

When it comes to osteoarthritis, for example, scientists saw value in studying medication for the patients but those living with the chronic condition wanted research to shed light on exercises to alleviate pain.

Katz-Lavigne says his study could expand to include other groups of patients. For now, he plans on handing his research to funding organizations and research institutes. Ultimately, the results could determine what’s studied.

“This may lead to outcomes that are directly relevant to health care consumers,” Katz-Lavigne said.

READ MORE: Can’t find a family doctor? Well-off more likely to secure appointments

He’s presenting his preliminary findings on Thursday afternoon at the Canadian Paediatric Society’s annual conference.


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