Prenatal education programming aims to continue improving maternal-child health in remote communities

CHRIM scientist and University of Manitoba Professor, Dr. Garry Shen along with his team members and collaborators, are paving the way for women in remote First Nations communities to take charge of their prenatal health. Dr. Shen and his research team, in partnership with Four Arrows Regional Health Authority and Island communities have received over one million dollars in funding from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research as part of the Fall 2021 Project Grant Competition to continue studying the prevention of diabetes in remote First Nations communities through prenatal programming.

With a high prevalence of gestational diabetes and childhood type 2 diabetes in those communities, Dr. Shen’s research has found that offering prenatal programing can help educate new mothers on how to stay healthy. With this new funding Dr. Shen says he will focus on diabetes prevention through education using Indigenous and non-Indigenous knowledge via community-specific venues.

Garry Shen, MD, PhD
Professor, University of Manitoba,

“This recently funded project grant aims to prevent type 2 diabetes in women and children in remote First Nations communities through promoting prenatal education, healthy eating, physical activity and breastfeeding in pregnant and postpartum women.”

In Dr. Shen’s previous studies, where he collaborated with several other CHRIM scientists, had demonstrated that prenatal education programming that offered online or via local radio significantly increased participation rates in prenatal programs and breastfeeding. Breastfeeding has been found to possibly reduce the risk of diabetes in mothers and their children.

This project will seek to provide health equity to families living in remote areas where the COVID -19 pandemic disproportionally affected First Nations people and at times, interrupted prenatal programming. The project will use a two-eyed seeing framework approach, meaning that it will operate using both a western lens as well as input from Indigenous partners so that both views are incorporated.

The supports available through the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba have helped Dr. Shen in a multitude of ways during the development of this project.

“CHRIM has provided lots of assistance to my research program, including the coordination for community supports, meeting organization, as well as grant and manuscript review,” says Shen. “Additionally CHRIM has supported me through an operating grant in 2018 on a relevant study which has helped with subsequent grants, like this one, that will ultimately benefit new mothers and their babies in remote First Nations communities.” he says.

The $1,155,150 funding from Canadian Institutes of Health Research will be used over five years and Dr. Shen will have several other CHRIM members working alongside him, including Drs. Jon McGavock, Elizabeth Sellers, Brandy Wicklow, Jennifer Yamamoto, Nathan Nickel and Depeng Jiang.

See the entire list of CHRIM researchers who received funding here.