Research on children’s injuries will push policy: York U project

A new project led by York University Professor Alison Macpherson will move evidence about how to prevent child and youth injuries into action.

Macpherson, a professor in the School of Kinesiology & Health Science in York’s Faculty of Health, has been awarded one of six Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Chairs in Reproductive and Child Health Services and Policy Research. Her project, “Bridging the gaps between evidence, policy, and injury prevention,” will receive $925,000 in CIHR funding over five years to look at barriers to enacting evidence-based policies that would prevent injuries in Canadian children and youth. The goal is to identify the best policies, and to promote a level of consistency across the country.

Injuries are the leading cause of death among children and youth in Canada and also result in serious disability. Macpherson drew attention to the problem of childhood injuries in 2007, with the publication of a major study on the association between body checking and concussions in children’s ice hockey. She has also examined the role of bicycle helmet laws, booster seat laws, and graduated drivers’ licensing.

“We have the evidence that those policies work to reduce injuries in children and youth, and people believe they are important,” said Macpherson. “However, there is a lot of variation across Canada in the uptake of these policies, so we need to directly communicate the evidence to policy-makers.”

Macpherson and her team will meet with government to research why policy decisions are or are not made. Case studies in provinces with and without legislation will provide insight into why in some cases policies are successfully enacted, while in others, they are blocked, despite evidence that they would work.

“Nova Scotia is one of the first jurisdictions in the world to enact legislation requiring skiers and snowboarders to wear helmets on ski hills,” said Macpherson. “On the other hand, not all Canadian provinces and territories have comprehensive laws related to prevention of childhood injury.”

Macpherson and her team will also continue their work to promote injury prevention within Aboriginal communities, and to develop culturally appropriate, community-centred injury prevention policies. Over the past five years, a working group has developed a report on injuries among First Nations and Inuit children. Macpherson’s team will continue to work with this group to develop a policy brief that will serve as a call for action to reduce childhood injuries in First Nations and Inuit communities.

“We are delighted that Professor Macpherson has been awarded a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Chair in reproductive, child and youth health,” said Robert Haché, Vice-President Research and Innovation.  “Her innovative and important research will help to inform policies that affect the health and well-being of Canadians. The award is well-deserved.”