Project participants contribute to COVID-19 research efforts
This past summer, the BC Generations Project invited participants by email to complete a new health questionnaire focused on COVID-19. Developed by CanPath* in collaboration with national and global partners, the online questionnaire captured data that will support researchers working on a variety of important projects related to the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re pleased to report that more than 17,800 project participants responded – Thank you!
The questionnaire asked participants about any COVID-19 symptoms, whether they have accessed testing and treatment, and how the pandemic and physical distancing requirements have affected their daily life and well-being. This information may be used in conjunction with previous questionnaire data and biological samples participants have provided to the BC Generations Project.
“The goal of this work is to help determine the different elements that may affect people’s susceptibility to COVID-19,” says Dr. Trevor Dummer, Scientific Co-Director of the BC Generations Project and National Scientific Co-Director of CanPath. “By looking at individual factors such as genetics, environment and previous health history on a broad scale, research may point to more targeted prevention and treatment strategies.”
*New name, same focus
The Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow Project is now known as CanPath: the Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow’s Health. The BC Generations Project is one of seven regions participating in this nation-wide initiative to study the biology, behaviours and environments of Canadians to learn more about the causes of cancer and other chronic diseases.
Data does double duty
Although the BC Generations Project’s primary purpose is to support research into the prevention of cancer and chronic disease, our rich population-based dataset also presents opportunities to assist with emerging health issues such as COVID-19.
“We’ve been able to respond quickly and leverage our existing infrastructure to help in this effort,” reports Dr. Parveen Bhatti, the BC Generations Project’s Scientific Director. “Between our own Project and peer cohorts across the country, more than 400,000 Canadians have been invited to complete the COVID-19 questionnaire.” To date, approximately 95,000 CanPath participants have responded.
Research trainee studies how built environment influences breast cancer risk
While there are some risk factors for breast cancer that a woman can’t control, it is estimated that up to 40% of breast cancer cases are preventable. Personal behaviours are known to play a role, and there is growing interest in the link between environmental exposures and a woman’s risk of breast cancer. These factors may be influenced by the “built environment” – the human-made surroundings in which we live and work.
Sean Harrigan, a second year MSc student in the School of Population and Public Health at UBC, is investigating how features of the built environment (such as levels of air pollution and the walkability of neighbourhoods) impact breast cancer risk in women in the BC Lower Mainland. Supervised by the Project’s Scientific Co-Director, Dr. Trevor Dummer, Sean’s research links participant data collected by the BC Generations Project (Core Health & Lifestyle data, residential and occupational history) with standardized environmental data provided by the Canadian Urban Environmental Health Research Consortium (CANUE). He hopes his work will provide valuable information on how modifiable characteristics of the built environment impact breast cancer, and lead to meaningful contributions to support policy makers and decision-makers.
“Breast cancer has affected my life, as it has with so many other families,” Sean notes. “It will be great if my project can help make a difference.”
The importance of Sean’s work has been acknowledged with the recent award of the Laurel L. Watters Research Fellowship for cancer research in the Faculty of Medicine at UBC and a Canadian Graduate Scholarship Master’s CIHR award for health research.
Best wishes for 2021!
The global health challenges of 2020 have brought widespread interest in the role of scientific evidence to help guide illness prevention and treatment efforts. The COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted the importance of individual actions for protecting the health of the entire population.
As a valued participant of the BC Generations Project, you are directly contributing to the common good towards the prevention of cancer and chronic diseases. From each member of our Project Team (most of us working from home!) we thank you for your participation and wish you good health for the coming year.
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