Giblon Professor and Vice-Chair,
Research, Family & Community Medicine
One of our Centre’s main goals is to translate the knowledge that is generated from our research into tangible actions and applications that improve child health and development. This is where Eva Grunfeld’s expertise in translational research — the field that helps bridge scientific evidence and practical implementation of new knowledge – comes in. She is the director of the Knowledge Translation Research Network, Health Services Research Program, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research.
Grunfeld is also an expert in cancer health services and care. “What we are really starting to understand is that several common cancers, including ovarian, breast, and colorectal, are linked to obesity,” she says. “Having a meaningful impact on childhood obesity could have important implications on the incidence of cancer as well.”
Some fundamental principles in knowledge translation in cancer care would also apply to the field of child nutrition. “However, the process of child nutrition knowledge translation really has to be tailored to the particular groups the Lawson Centre is working with,” says Grunfeld. “Childhood malnutrition and obesity are not just a problem of the health care system; it is a much broader societal and awareness issue.”
Grunfeld identifies citizen engagement in research as one of the keys to finding meaningful solutions. “You absolutely have to have the perspective of those people who are affected by the research – such as citizens, parents, patients and children – on interpretation of the research results,” she says. “By engaging the people who are going to be the users of new knowledge, and involving them in the research from the very beginning, scientists can ensure that the questions they investigate and their results are communicated and interpreted in a relevant manner.”
Scientists also have to be keenly aware of the contextual factors in their fields of research. “Our work may mean very different things for people who live in downtown Toronto versus those in Northern Ontario,” says Grunfeld. Anticipating potential barriers to moving research into practice in various contexts from the beginning of the research process, asserts Grunfeld, means the findings can be translated into action faster and more efficiently.
“In translational research, we talk about the so-called ‘valleys of death’,” explains Grunfeld. “These are the two major areas where there is a gap between the conduct of research and its translation to the next step in the research process. The first is the translation of laboratory discoveries to human subjects. The second is the translation of clinical evidence into routine clinical practice, and public health policy. The mandate of translational research is to overcome these valleys of death, because research for its own sake is not good enough anymore.”
Grunfeld also emphasizes the role of public policy and the Lawson Centre’s relationships with government agencies. “The problems of childhood malnutrition and obesity are very complex. We have to make sure that the teams working on these problems are truly multidisciplinary and include a focus on the translation and communication of possible solutions to policy-makers to ensure the Lawson Centre’s success,” says Grunfeld.
At a glance:
Eva Grunfeld, MSc, MD, FCFP, DPhil
- Knowledge translation
- Cancer survivorship
- End-of-life care
- Coordination and quality of cancer care
- Giblon Professor and Vice-Chair, Research, Department of Family & Community Medicine, University of Toronto
- Professor, Institute for Health Policy, Management & Evaluation, University of Toronto
- Professor, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto
- Full Member, School of Graduate Studies, University of Toronto
- Director, Knowledge Translation Research Network, Health Services Research Program, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research
- Adjunct Scientist, Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences
See Eva’s profile on the Department of Family & Community Medicine website for more information.