May 16, 2023

With new CIHR funding, UCalgary nursing professor continues her advocacy for at-risk children

Dr. Nicole Letourneau receives CIHR Mental Health in the Early Years grant to implement and evaluate ATTACH program with Alberta families affected by domestic violence or mental health concerns
MHITEY announcement

UCalgary Nursing professor, Dr. Nicole Letourneau RN, PhD, has received one of six Scientific Team Grants awarded in the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Mental Health in the Early Years (MHITEY) initiative. The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health, made the announcement of the $6.5 million investment earlier this month.  

Letourneau’s project, Attachment and Child Health (ATTACH™) Online: Implementation Across Alberta to Promote Healthy Parent-Child Relationships and Mental Health and Development of Children Affected by Early Adversity, will address parents’ capacity to understand their own and their child's thoughts, feelings and mental states.

Designed for in-person delivery, ATTACHTM is already a successful intervention program for parents and their preschool-aged children at risk from early adversity. This funding will implement and evaluate ATTACHTM delivery online to promote greater flexibility for parents and accessibility in rural and remote locations.

Mother plays with baby and abacus

“Along with ATTACHTM co-creator Dr. Martha Hart, we are dedicated to addressing the impact of early childhood adversity – so family violence, low-income, parental depression – through strengthening parent-child relationships and buffering those negative impacts on children,” explains Letourneau.

“In foundational research with 90 families, we found the ATTACHTM intervention significantly improved parent-child relationship quality and children's mental health and development.”  

The new grant, over five years, will implement and evaluate the online program with 100 families across Alberta who are affected by domestic violence or mental health concerns to scale and spread ATTACHTM through online delivery. Key partnerships that make this possible include the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters and partner agencies, as well as Hull Social Services, Highbanks and Brenda Strafford Centre.

MHITEY, led by the CIHR’s Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth Health, will help to advance Canada’s mental health strategy by identifying solutions for safe and equitable programs and services for diverse populations, and through adopting, adapting and improving the use of evidence-based practices in clinical, community and public health settings.  

Dr. Nicole Letourneau, professor at UCalgary Nursing is also a professor with the Cumming School of Medicine (Departments of Paediatrics, Psychiatry and Community Health Sciences); Director, RESOLVE Alberta; Scientific Director, Alliance against Violence and Adversity (AVA); and a member of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Owerko Centre, Hotchkiss Brain Institute and Mathison Centre.