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Lakehead University to set up new research institute for injury prevention

Centre will have a northern Ontario focus.
Lakehead University

THUNDER BAY — The Lakehead University Senate has approved a plan to establish the Research Institute for Enhancing Prevention of Injury and Disability at Work.

It would bring people together to reduce impacts of work-related injury and disability through collaborative applied research and education.

The institute's mandate states that the knowledge generated by the research "will inform practice and policies aiming to improve health and social outcomes in Northwestern Ontario and beyond."

Researcher Dr. Vicki Kristman, an associate professor, had a key role in putting the proposal together.

She says northwestern Ontario is an important area for this type of work. 

"There are a lot of work disability claims...and it tends to have longer work disability durations than southern Ontario. We want to create a centre that will focus on these problems for northern Ontario," Kristman told Tbnewswatch.

The province already has a similar centre, affiliated with the University of Toronto and McMaster University, which is funded by the Ministry of Labour.

"We feel that we need something here so that we can engage with partners here and not always have to rely on what's coming out of southern Ontario," Kristman said.

The Lakehead facility will operate with three divisions.

One will focus on vulnerable populations including Indigenous people, the homeless, and people with intellectual impairments, Kristman said, to understand why they seem to suffer more with work disability.  The institute's work will include studying ways to help these individuals stay employed.

Another division will specialize in musculoskeletal injuries, which affect about 40 per cent of injured workers. Kristman noted that Lakehead's kinesiology department already has a lot of expertise in that area. 

The third division will focus on mental health in the workplace, an issue she described as becoming increasingly important in northwestern Ontario.

"We will try to conduct projects that will have a meaningful impact, so that we'll help employers maybe understand more about how they can accommodate, for example, workers that have a mental health disorder," Kristman said.

The next step is to find space for the institute on campus.

Kristman said  it needs to be readily accessible to the community "because the goal is to really engage with community partners, and we want them to come in, talking to us and working with us to develop meaningful research."

Considerable funding for the centre is already in place, she said, but more will be required on a sustained basis.







Gary Rinne

About the Author: Gary Rinne

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Gary started part-time at Tbnewswatch in 2016 after retiring from the CBC
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