April 1, 2022

Nursing prof receives $2.4M for Alliance against Violence and Adversity (AVA) project

Nicole Letourneau 1 of 4 UCalgary researchers to receive funding from Canadian Institutes of Health Research investment of $31.1M in new Health Research Training Platform
Dr. Nicole Letourneau
Nicole Letourneau

Nursing professor Dr. Nicole Letourneau, RN, PhD, was one of four UCalgary researchers to receive funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) investment of $31.1 million in the new Health Research Training Platform (HRTP) announced March 31.

HRTP is a pilot program that will embed early career researchers and trainees in collaborative health research teams with the goal of increasing their career prospects and building Canadian health research capacity.  

Letourneau, who is also a research professor with the Cumming School of Medicine and a member of the Owerko Centre at the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute, Mathison Centre for Mental Health and Hotchkiss Brain Institute, will receive almost $2.4 million over six years for her project Alliance against Violence and Adversity (AVA).

“We aim to create capacity to transform community health and social services for girls and women who are at risk for or already affected by violence and adversity over the life cycle, via a collaborative, innovative, cross-sectoral, cross-disciplinary, cross-jurisdictional training platform,” she explains. 

“Recent spikes in adverse childhood experiences (ACE) and family violence linked to the COVID-19 pandemic clearly show that we must act now to provide urgently needed and overdue, transformative and community-based research training to address the health and wellness of girls and women affected by adversity in Canada,” adds Letourneau.

“The AVA Training Platform also aligns with the just-released 2021 CIHR/ UNICEF joint report ‘Inspiring Healthy Futures: A Vision for Canada’s Children, Youth and Families’ that emphasizes equity, collaboration and stakeholder participation as well as efforts to cross health, education, social services and justice sectors to mobilize communities around children and families. Our team will meet this moment.” 

That team currently numbers over 150 members from across Canada, representing the leadership of the Alliance of Canadian Research Centres on Gender-Based Violence (developed in 1991 after 1989’s Montréal Massacre) and members of their networks including other academics and people from not-for-profit community agencies serving girls and women affected by or at-risk of exposure to ACEs and violence.

Participants in the AVA program will have access to diverse, high-quality mentors and training that builds their academic and professional development skills, such as in grant writing, project management, science communication, interdisciplinary research, implementation science and knowledge mobilization.  

A well-known and respected researcher with a history of receiving philanthropic support, Letourneau has a 20-year track record in studying how children are affected by family issues such as post-partum depression, violence and low-income. Leading this new project, she hopes, will not only be innovative, but barrier-breaking in its ability to address inequities and halt intergenerational detrimental outcomes from exposure to violence and adversity.

The ability to collaborate with so many diverse partners is critical for transformative change. We will also address health disparities for Indigenous, racialized and other marginalized people with mutual capacity building and co-learning and will train team members (academics, collaborators, knowledge users, trainees) in research co-design and stakeholder engagement. 

Letourneau is confident in the success of the plan and is already planning for what will happen after the six-year funding period is over. “AVA stands to help reduce family violence and improve Canada’s UNICEF rankings for girls’ health and wellness, with positive lifespan, intergenerational and population impacts.”

The faculty plans to officially launch the centre later this spring or early summer.