Cognitive health project launched in Victoria
October 18, 2017
VICTORIA, B.C. – A five-year project to integrate leading-edge research and care for patients living with dementia and other cognitive health issues on Vancouver Island was announced at Royal Jubilee Hospital.
The Manning family of Victoria, which has recently been affected by cognitive health issues, has inspired Island Health, the University of Victoria and the University of British Columbia to partner and develop The Neil and Susan Manning Cognitive Health Initiative.
The Mannings have pledged $2.5 million to the Victoria Hospitals Foundation to fund the program.
“When a cognitive health illness impacted our family and we began to understand this issue, we realized that while much research had been done, there is still so much more to do to solve the riddles around cognitive diseases,” said Neil Manning (pictured), who moved to the Island from Edmonton with his wife in 2012.
His wife’s forgetfulness began with the usual, textbook things, Manning said. She was diagnosed with dementia just over two years ago.
The Mannings reached out to health professionals in Greater Victoria in a bid to help others. Over the past 18 months, the breadth and significance of the initiative grew bigger and grander than the couple, who have been married for 36 years, had anticipated.
This is the first-time Island Health, the University of Victoria (UVic) and the University of British Columbia (UBC) Island Medical Program have collaborated on a research project that aims to improve the diagnosis and treatment of dementia.
UVic’s Institute on Aging and Lifelong Health is a key partner and is internationally renowned for its dementia research.
The Times Colonist reported that the project will track Vancouver Island dementia patients, essentially clustering patient symptoms, treatment plans and outcomes and putting them in a central digital database.
The Dementia Guidance System database will seek to understand the journeys of individual patients, said Kristine Votava, the initiative’s project director.
Over time, the tools will be available for use by family physicians to assist with early diagnosis and care across Vancouver Island, which is seeing a surge of dementia cases.
Dr. Bruce Wright, UBC’s regional associate dean for the Island Medical Program, said physicians who have clinical appointments with the program will be some of the first to be equipped with clinical tools created through the project.
“This will build Island Health’s capacity in the area of cognitive health,” Wright said.
As well, the research gathered will provide a template of best practices to educate the next generation of Island healthcare providers, he said.
University of Victoria president Jamie Cassels said the donation created an exceptional opportunity to advance health research collaborations on Vancouver Island.
“The initiative announced will see University of Victoria researchers, Island medical professionals, and Island Medical Program educators and students working together as teams on cognitive health research,” Cassels said.
“These teams will strive to incorporate their learning into practice so that those living with a cognitive health disorder can see the benefit of this research much more rapidly.”
For Island Health, there is a compelling need to learn more about this complex and devastating illness, and how best to help patients and their families. In addition to having a high population of older adults, Vancouver Island is experiencing a “rising tide” of dementia, with many types of dementia and advanced and complex cases.
Fortunately, the family physicians, clinics, hospitals and community care services that treat patients with cognitive health issues all operate under a single health authority (Island Health), creating an ideal environment in which to conduct clinical and health services research.
“If you have had a family member impacted by a cognitive health issue you know how devastating the diagnosis can be,” said Leah Hollins, board chair of Island Health. “As this program unfolds, clinicians from Island Health and researchers from UVic will design and run a collection of cognitive health disorder studies. They will also engage medical professionals, giving them the opportunity to conduct research with their patients and deliver quality care simultaneously.”
The project will also aim to expand clinical trial opportunities for patients with dementia, including studies of investigational new drugs otherwise not currently available to patients on the Island.