Behavioural Medicine in the Spotlight for its Role in Chronic Disease Prevention

IBTN Members Secure Two New Canadian Chair Appointments

Last December, in Montreal, Canada, the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) added four new strategic chairs to the university’s existing eleven strategic research chairs. Designed to support research development in emerging, interdisciplinary and innovative areas, one of these new chairs will focus on behavioural medicine and was awarded to one of IBTN’s co-chairs Dr. Kim Lavoie.

Dr. Lavoie’s objectives as recipient of the new UQAM Chair in Behavioural Medicine are all aimed at achieving a better understanding of the behavioural and psychological factors influencing chronic disease and at developing prevention, intervention and training strategies in the field of biobehavioural research. This initiative will undoubtedly be well-served by Dr. Lavoie in that her past and current work in the field of behavioural medicine has been geared to these very ends. Dr. Lavoie earned herself this position thanks to the innovative potential of her work, her strong ties with internal and external collaborators, the scientific, social and cultural impact of her work, as well as her supervisory work with students towards their integration into the field.

Dr. Lavoie has expressed her excitement at the chance to continue to promote the vast potential of this field of medicine in addressing one of the world’s most important health challenges, chronic diseases. Recognized as responsible for the highest mortality rate among the human population (14 million deaths per year), chronic diseases include such heavy-hitters as cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and obesity, and involve common risk factors such as tobacco use, poor diet, and sedentary lifestyles. Dr. Lavoie’s research also focuses on another important risk factor – patients’ non adherence to treatment – which she has shown can be better managed through improved patient-oriented interventions and training of healthcare professionals in motivational communication.

Also serving as Co-Director of the Montreal Behavioural Medicine Centre (MBMC), Dr. Lavoie will use this new opportunity to continue to expand the scope of research in this important field, namely alongside the work of the IBTN and the MBMC, and the work of her closest collaborator, also co-director of the MBMC and co-chair of the IBTN, Dr. Simon Bacon, who was recently awarded a $1.8M CIHR Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR) Mentorship Chair in Innovative Clinical Trials.

Dr. Bacon’s five-year Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Chair, announced earlier this year, involves a number of new initiatives that resonate with this growing trend in improving research trials in the field of behavioural science. Thanks to this Chair, Dr. Bacon will be spearheading training for approximately 150 trainees and new investigators towards improving study design. This initiative will be rolled out in tandem with international experts, patients, healthcare professionals, policy makers, and local (Concordia University, CIUSSS-NIM), provincial (the Quebec SPOR Support Unit, Réseau de recherche sur la santé cardiométabolique, le diabète et l’obésité) national (Diabetes Canada, Hypertension Canada), and international (International Behavioural Trials Network, CEPS Platform) organisations. It will also provide scholarship funding for nearly 20 postdoctoral fellows and graduate students, offer direct pilot funding to kickstart novel projects, develop an international exchange program to enhance multidisciplinarity, and create opportunities for long-term capacity building. The initiative will also include yearly summer schools offering students and researchers hands-on opportunities to learn, network, share, workshop, and establish strong collaborative ties across the globe.

The CIHR Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR) is geared towards fostering evidence-informed health care by bringing innovative diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to the point of care. It aims to ensure greater quality, accountability, and accessibility of care. It is founded on the principle that a continuum of research should engage patients as partners, focus on patient-identified priorities, and improve patient outcomes. SPOR chairs and funding seek to help develop capacity, establish collaborative networks and support units, and improve competitiveness in conducting clinical trials.

Dr. Bacon is pleased to see how this important field is gaining foothold at the university, national, and international level, namely in light of the high costs of chronic disease for human populations around the world, costs that can be counted in both economic and human terms. Dr. Bacon’s work has long been focused on increasing the visibility and impact of behavioural science in health science research, namely in fostering increased collaboration amongst researchers and improving the quality of behavioural trials to give increased momentum to their outcomes. Dr. Bacon’s past initiatives, including the founding of the IBTN, have been geared towards establishing best practices and formalizing standards in view of promoting and leveraging the breakthroughs of health behaviour research towards turning the tide on the high costs of chronic disease on human populations.

Both Dr. Lavoie and Dr. Bacon are poised to make waves in the field over the coming years and both look forward to deepening the ties between researchers in the field from around the world in an effort to maximize outcomes and build capacity for the next generation of researchers.

Dr. Lavoie is a Full Professor in the Department on Psychology at UQAM, adjunct professor at Université de Montréal, Chair of the Health Psychology and Behavioural Medicine at the Canadian Psychological Association, Chair of the Canadian Network for Health Behavior Change and Promotion (CAN-Change), and recipient of multiple grants in motivational communication training.

Dr. Bacon is a Full Professor in the Department of Exercise Science at Concordia University in Montreal, adjunct professor in the Departments of Medicine of McGill University and Université de Montréal, and the Departments of Psychology of UQAM and Concordia University. He has won numerous research awards from organizations such as Hypertension Canada, the National Institutes of Health in the US, the European Society of Hypertension, and the International Society of Psychoneuroendocrinology.