York U, partners receive $15 million in federal funds to build health technologies

York University and Southlake Regional Health Centre, together with the University Health Network (UHN), will work to develop new technologies to improve the health of Canadians using a $15 million investment from the Government of Canada.

FEATURED mamdouh bains stage (barbara photo)
Navdeep Bains, minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, and the minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), with York University President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri

Navdeep Bains, the minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, and the minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), announced the funding at Southlake Regional Health Centre on July 21.

FedDev Ontario’s investment will be matched by $19.5 million from 32 partners that are developing three dozen new health-care technologies, resulting in a total budget of $34.5 million for the project.

The collaborative project will develop and commercialize apps and medical devices and will leverage big data to create predictive health solutions expected to improve outcomes and reduce costs.

“Our government is committed to positioning Canada as a global centre for innovation – one that creates jobs, drives growth across all industries and improves the lives of all Canadians,” said Bains. “Today’s announcement is a prime example of that policy in action. The most innovative solutions often happen when people from different fields collaborate. That’s why it’s important for universities, health-care providers, the business community and government to work together. That’s how we will come up with health-care solutions that improve the quality of life for all Canadians.”

The project, The Health Ecosphere: An Innovation Pipeline for Commercial Health Solutions, brings researchers and scientists together with business to develop technologies to coordinate health care across systems that previously operated in silos.

“This important investment by the Government of Canada recognizes the critical role of innovation and knowledge mobilization in both health promotion and health care. It will enable York to build on the success of our Connected Health & Wellness Project (CHWP), which demonstrated the power of providing individuals with the technology and tools they need to manage their health,” said York University President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri. “York has collaborated with Southlake for many years, and we anticipate an even closer working relationship as we look forward to our new campus opening in Markham Centre.”

York University’s Faculty of Health is the lead academic partner and administrative centre for the Health Ecosphere project. Southlake Regional Health Centre, the largest health-care facility in York Region, will be the lead clinical partner, and UHN will play a major role as a key academic partner. Each institution is leading a suite of technologies to be developed and commercialized. Working together, they will create a health technology cluster in York Region.

York University collaborated with 18 partners on the CHWP, which also benefited from significant federal government investment, and through that program developed a Certificate in Health Coaching program.

With the new funding announced today, York’s Faculty of Health will expand its Health Coach Institute by producing specialized continuing education and training modules for students enrolled in the certificate program. It will expand its training currently offered to health professionals who want to add health coaching to their practice – such as nurses, occupation and physical therapists, chiropractors, pharmacists, social workers, emergency services workers, clergy and law enforcement. The new training modules will focus on emerging practice areas for the health coach – Aboriginal health, youth mental health, aging, obesity and diabetes.

In another York-led initiative within the project, Professor Paul Ritvo will team up with the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health (CAMH) and NexJ Health, a Toronto-based provider of health management software for patients, to test the effectiveness of Internet-based, online interventions for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal youth with diagnosed depressive and anxiety disorders. Ritvo has been researching youth-focused online interventions for five years and will conduct two clinical trials.