This guest post was first published on the University of Ottawa website and is reposted here with permission.
By Monique Roy-Sole
Medical science has long proven the benefits of taking folic acid for a healthy pregnancy. However, many prenatal supplements sold in Canada contain more than twice the recommended dose of folic acid.
Professor Bénédicte Fontaine-Bisson at uOttawa’s Faculty of Health Sciences and a team of scientists have decided to address this discrepancy. The combination of prenatal supplements and eating foods fortified with folate has led to high blood folate concentrations among pregnant women, raising concerns about possible effects on fetal development.
Over the past three years, Fontaine-Bisson and her team have launched several knowledge mobilization initiatives to bring together scientists, healthcare professionals, policy-makers and industry representatives on this public health issue. Their efforts have led to concerted measures to inform Canadian physicians, an update of Health Canada’s product specifications for prenatal supplements and Nestlé Canada’s decision to reduce the amount of folic acid in Materna®, their popular prenatal supplement.
“It is increasingly incumbent on universities to encourage and support researchers in translating discovery into action,” said Sylvain Charbonneau, uOttawa’s vice-president, research. “The efforts undertaken by our three first award winners show the tremendous value of promoting new knowledge in the greater community and of involving knowledge users at various levels of the research process.”
To support her research on education and democracy, Professor Stéphanie Gaudet engages community stakeholders at all stages of her projects, from laying out the problems that need solutions to defining objectives. In her latest work, she has forged ties with seven organizations from Gatineau, Montréal and Oka that offer programs to educate children and youth on citizenship and democracy.
Knowledge mobilization activities such as symposia, forums and citizen cafés “have shed light on the phenomenal work that these non-profit organizations do to educate youth and to preserve democratic life,” said Gaudet, who is director of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research on Citizenship and Minorities. This collaborative approach has had a positive effect on the social and political engagement of youth and youth organizations by including them in conversations on issues that affect them.