Changing hearts and minds: KMb awards go to researchers studying cardiovascular disease in women and election integrity

Research and Innovation
Research and innovation
Knowledge mobilization
Faculty of Arts
Faculty of Medicine
University of Ottawa Heart Institute

By University of Ottawa

Office of the Vice-President, Research and Innovation, OVPRI

Dr. Kerri-Anne Mullen from the Faculty of Medicine on the left. Dr. Elizabeth Dubois from the Faculty of Arts on the right.
Discover how this year’s Knowledge Mobilization Award winners, Kerri-Anne Mullen and Elizabeth Dubois, engaged in boundary-breaking activities that shed light on two serious societal issues — the rise of cardiovascular disease in women and the impact of technology and media on election integrity, respectively.

Knowledge mobilization is the exchange of research between academics and knowledge users and its  application to foster societal change.

Each year, the University of Ottawa’s Office of the Vice President, Research and Innovation, recognizes researchers who undertake creative, innovative and equitable knowledge mobilization activities that have far-reaching impact beyond the scientific community, locally, nationally and internationally.

Women’s Cardiovascular Health Hub

Dr. Kerri-Anne Mullen from the Faculty of Medicine.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the number one preventable cause of death and hospitalization for women in Canada, and has been on the rise for the past decade due in part because, as Dr. Kerri-Anne Mullen explains, “women have been under-researched, under-diagnosed, and under-treated.”

To fill this gap, Mullen helped launch and currently chairs the Canadian Women’s Heart Health Alliance (CWHHA), which is powered by the Canadian Women’s Heart Health Centre at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. The CWHHA refers to itself as “a pan-Canadian collaborative network focused on enhancing co-led research and knowledge mobilization through mentorship and training that deeply engages underrepresented populations.”

The CWHHA published the Canadian Women’s Heart Health Alliance ATLAS, which reviews issues in women’s cardiovascular health, from diagnosis, treatment and management, to the impact of sex, gender and social determinants of health. “Parts of the ATLAS were co-written with women living with CVD to present their perspective, including gaps and opportunities to improve care and outcomes,” Mullen says.

Alongside the ATLAS, the CWHHA developed a series of multilingual resources (print and video) with key messages that have been translated into 17 languages to reach more women and knowledge users in higher-risk, remote, lower access, and Indigenous communities.

The CWHHA also produced nine accredited educational modules, featuring real-life patient experiences for trainees and providers in cardiology, general internal and emergency medicine. “These modules have reached hundreds of health care providers and have informed a new women’s cardiovascular health and cardio-obstetrics curriculum, currently being piloted by the University of Ottawa Heart Institute's Adult Cardiology Postgraduate Training Program,” says Mullen.

To further support next generation researchers, a mentorship program was developed offering, as Mullen says, “opportunities to learn, share, grow, take intelligent risks and ask tough questions between knowledge users.”

These activities have created a national network of relationships and collaborations between clinicians, researchers, trainees, and people with lived experience so they can share knowledge, increase awareness and improve prevention, detection and management of cardiovascular disease in women.

Digital Ecosystem Research Challenge

 Dr. Elizabeth Dubois from the Faculty of Arts.

Professor Elizabeth Dubois sought to reshape how we think about disinformation in Canada by examining the impact of technology on our political environment and election integrity, through what she called the Digital Media Ecosystem Research Challenge (DERC).

“Threats to election integrity involve complex campaigns leveraging personal data, advertising systems, harassment and hate, and campaign tactics,” says Dubois. “Collaboration and communication are therefore very important to address the challenges of navigating trace data and keeping up with rapid innovation in digital media.”

To foster this cross-sectorial collaboration, Dubois organized a conference to discuss findings from an in-depth digital ecosystem scan of the 2019 Canadian federal election she completed with teams from Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. Bringing together researchers, policymakers, civil society groups and journalists, discussions promoted a common language across fields and cultural and linguistic contexts, and connected her findings to those who can make best use of them.

As a result, Dubois published an open-access report that is used in classrooms and policy discussions across Canada and will serve as a benchmark for evaluating Canada’s media landscape and the state of disinformation.

Dubois also launched the Wonks and War Rooms podcast, exploring different political communication theories with practitioners. She says this format creates “a co-produced dialogue with unique insights that can only be gleaned with the help of those working on the ground across varied communities and contexts.”

Beyond these efforts, Dubois and other DERC members regularly engage with media to support news coverage of threats to election integrity, raise awareness of key issues among the public and policymakers, and increase media and civic literacy.

“Globally, more people will be heading to the polls this year than ever before, so it is critical that we pre-emptively develop tools and skills that reduce the impact of propaganda and disinformation on voters,” she says.