McMaster University

McMaster University

Nursing faculty to play role in Optimal Aging Initiative

By Amanda Boundris

Maureen Dobbins
Maureen Dobbins
Maureen Markle-Reid
Maureen Markle-Reid

Two faculty members from the McMaster School of Nursing will receive significant funding as part of the University’s new Labarge Optimal Aging Initiative.

Introduced on September 7 and supported with a generous gift of $10 million from businesswoman and McMaster graduate Suzanne Labarge, the Optimal Aging Initiative will sponsor interdisciplinary research and a website portal on healthy aging designed to provide information accessible to the public, health-care professionals, researchers and policy makers.

Associate professors of nursing Maureen Markle-Reid and Maureen Dobbins will each receive funding from the program for projects aimed at supporting the overall goal of improving and promoting healthy aging in society.

Markle-Reid will receive $100,000 over two years for a study on the effectiveness of a nurse-led education and a self-management program on risk factors for chronic disease for older adults with diabetes.

She said research in this area is important at this time because approximately 60 per cent of older adults with Type 2 diabetes have at least one co-morbid condition, and as many as 40 per cent have four or more co-morbid conditions. Community-living older adults with Type 2 diabetes and multiple chronic conditions have poorer quality of life and higher use of health services than those without these conditions.

"Although collaborative and interprofessional lifestyle modification interventions were found effective in preventing or reducing Type 2 diabetes and improving quality of life, the evidence is inconclusive regarding their effectiveness in older adults with Type 2 diabetes and co-morbid conditions," explained Markle-Reid. "New and innovative models of care need to be developed and tested to improve the quality of life in this vulnerable population."

Dobbins is scientific director of the National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools and also oversees Health Evidence, an online registry of reviews evaluating public health interventions that she created. She is a member of the team who will create the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal, which will provide tools and information to answer the many questions about healthy aging.

Health Evidence will receive more than $300,000 over five years to ensure the best available public health evidence on effective interventions for optimal aging is made available to health professionals, policy makers, seniors and caregivers. The funding will also assist in integrating into one platform the best available research evidence from three online registries: Health Evidence, Health Systems Evidence, and MacPlus, which will "form the backbone of the portal," said Dobbins.

"This one stop shop, which exists nowhere else in the world, will facilitate access to the best available evidence in relation to the effectiveness of clinical, public health and health policy interventions," she said.

She added that currently there is an abundance of information available to the point where it can be overwhelming to even begin to seek advice on health issues and that generally, there is limited skill in determining which information is "good enough" to influence decisions. To that end, the funding will also be used to identify and rate the many online resources and sources of evidence currently available on the web; assess these sites for providing reliable and valid evidence; and provide recommendations on the most trusted sites worldwide.

Both researchers are appreciative of Labarge’s significant gift to the University and her commitment to improving healthy aging, and what the funding will allow them to do.

Markle-Reid said the donation will "foster collaboration among an interprofessional team of established investigators in the Faculty of Health Sciences, from nursing, medicine, rehabilitation science, clinical epidemiology and biostatistics, kinesiology, and pathology and molecular medicine, to further expand the scope of collaborations in research related to aging, quality of life and health services research at McMaster."

Dobbins added: "The Optimal Aging Portal would not be possible without Suzanne’s incredible gift. Now we are fully committed to providing a seamless experience for consumers in accessing the best available research evidence specifically related to optimal aging. It is also our hope that this is just the beginning and that we will be able to leverage these funds to obtain additional funding to eventually expand these services beyond optimal aging."

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