Interior universities launch new research projects worth $120k

Interior gets research dollars

Seniors services, water treatment and climate change's impact on mental health.

They may not seem related, but they're all issues facing remote and rural communities in B.C. and research projects from B.C.'s three interior universities. Through the Interior University Research Coalition (IURC) each issue will see a team of researchers working on them, with each team receiving $40,000.

Seniors services have been repositioned by Interior Health with the creation of health centres in Kamloops and Kelowna notes the organization in a release, and TRU associate professor Wendy Hulko along with the University of B.C. — Okanagan's Kathy Rush and the University of Northern B.C.'s Sarah De Leeuw will be looking at the impacts of that choice and COVID-19.

"One of the goals of these wellness centres was to get people connected to care, but we will have to find out how those services have been impacted by the pandemic and how the pandemic is impacting the ability of older adults to age in place,” Hulko says in a press release.

UNBC professor Jianbing Li will be leading research on water treatment, aiming to create a low-cost solution for remote and rural communities who often face issues around getting safe drinking water.

Rehan Sadiq and Kasun Hewage, from UBCO's engineering school will also be part of the effort, which should have a prototype by the end.

As the effects of climate change become better understood, UBCO's Nelly Oelke is focusing on the effects on rural and remote communities and how to build resiliency.

"Climate-change events can result in extreme physical and psychological trauma for vulnerable populations living in rural and remote communities,” says Oelke in the release. “PTSD, depression, anxiety, increased substance use and suicidality are all found to increase during and after problematic flooding, wildfires and drought, which are becoming more and more common in B.C."

Oelke will be collaborating with people at Interior Health along with the two other universities.

Rural and remote communities are going through "profound and complex" changes says IURC director Janice Larsen, and to make sure things develope in a stable manner, it's essential to understand the issues better.

The IURC was founded in 2017 "to accelerate the BC Interior’s research and innovation ecosystem," according to the organization's website. It involves the three research universities in the interior in Kamloops, Kelowna and Prince George, along with the cities they're in, the United Way and organizations focusing on economic acceleration and innovation.

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