MicroResearch: from NS to Africa and back

Nisha Waqas, an international medical graduate, receiving her MicroResearch NS Certificate of Completion from David Anderson, Dean of the Dalhousie Faculty of Medicine with Dr. Noni MacDonald, Co-Founder MicroResearch International.
Nisha Waqas receives her MicroResearch NS Certificate from Drs. David Anderson and Noni MacDonald.

MicroResearch Nova Scotia is bringing community members together to find local solutions to local health problems.

“Imagine introducing a paramedic, community health nurse, police officer, shelter worker, and physician, challenging them to find a community health problem they are all passionate about solving and then giving them the tools they need to help solve it together. That’s MicroResearch Nova Scotia,” said Dr. Noni MacDonald, who Co-Founded MicroResearch NS with her colleague Dr. Bob Bortolussi. “Community members learning to tackle the health problems they experience every day.”

The Nova Scotia doctors developed the MicroResearch concept for use in Africa in 2008. Since then, the MicroResearch program in Eastern Africa has been growing the capacity of small multidisciplinary teams to find solutions to maternal and child health problems in their own communities with many successes. MicroResearch Nova Scotia is now applying these same principles here - teaching community members how to solve local health problems through measures that fit local culture, context and resources.

A partnership between Nova Scotia Health Authority, Dalhousie University and the IWK Health Centre, MicroResearch Nova Scotia provides community-focused research training, mentorship and small grants for health research projects conceived and conducted locally. Funding support for specific projects is covered by the local hospital foundations and other funding partners.

Since the launch of the program in Nova Scotia last fall, MicroResearch NS has examined issues ranging from the needs of suicidal youth following hospital discharge, to pop consumption in the Paqtnkek First Nations reserve and challenges identified by bereaved caregivers and frontline professionals when a palliative care patient wishes to die at home.

“Improving the health of Nova Scotians will require changes that go beyond the health care system. We need innovative solutions that are developed and implemented with sensitivity to local circumstances and are driven by the best research evidence,” said Dr. MacDonald “We’ve seen how this can work in Africa and now we’re seeing it here. Our goal is to give local teams the tools to find local solutions for local health problems that can improve the health and wellbeing of communities.”

The first MicroResearch Nova Scotia workshop was held in Colchester last fall. Since then, it has been rolling out across the province, with workshops held in Antigonish and in the north end of Halifax and more planned across Nova Scotia in the coming months.

North End resident Linda Carvery had no idea what to expect when she attended the workshop in Halifax. She was impressed by the approach and felt the method used by the teams would be very effective.

“People coming from such different backgrounds have different perspectives and different ways of expressing themselves,” she said. “These are the kinds of diverse teams we need to solve problems.”