Dr Line Caes in Psychology, secured funding from Canada-UK Foundation to travel to Canada for a research visit with her collaborator, Dr Jennifer Stinson. Following her trip & visit to SickKids, Toronto, Canada Line reflects on her visit and the opportunities it created. 

The collaboration between Prof. Jennifer Stinson and I started in 2016 when Prof. Stinson received the James Flaherty Visiting Professorship from the Ireland Canada University Foundation. This visiting professorship allowed Prof. Stinson to visit the Centre for Pain Research at NUI Galway where I worked from 2014-2016. During this visit we set up needs assessment interviews with teens diagnosed with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA), their parents and health care professionals treating teens with JIA.  The purpose of these needs assessment was to gather in depth knowledge on what teens with JIA need to effectively manage JIA independently. In addition, we evaluated the teens’ appreciation of two Canadian-developed online tools for supporting independent self-management:

  • teens taking charge (TTC), an online self-management programme of 12 weeks in which teens independently go through 1 module on JIA per week – TTC can be accessed here.
  • iPeer2Peer, a peer mentoring programme of 8 weeks in which teens with JIA are paired with a young adult who is successfully managing their JIA. Weekly Skype calls are organised between the mentor and mentee to facilitate receiving informational and emotional support from another person living with a similar condition

The needs assessment interviews with Irish Teens revealed a great enthusiasm for both online programmes, which would only require minimal changes in order to be extremely useful resources. Recent funding from the Health Research Board allows the TTC to be adjusted to the Irish context and  the iPeer2Peer+TTC in Ireland to be evaluated. In addition, the collaboration is being extended to Scotland, with funding sought to support the adaptions to make TTC fit for purpose in the Scottish healthcare context and evaluate if iPeer2Peer+TTC can be run by Arthritis Care Scotland in a sustainable manner.

left to right: Sara Ahola Kohut, Dolly Mennadack, Siohban O’Higgins & Line Caes

With the funding from the Canada-UK Foundation and HRB Ireland, I was able to visit Prof. Stinson’s lab at SickKids, Toronto, Canada in March 2018. The main aim of the visit was to attend the peer mentor training weekend to observe first hand how peer mentors within the iPeer2Peer programme are trained and supported.  Attending this peer mentor training weekend was invaluable and reflections with the trainers afterwards provided crucial input on how this peer mentor training in Ireland and Scotland could be organised.

Furthermore, during the visit, I met with the technical team at AboutKidsHealth to review the updated videos (now including both Canadian and Irish teens) and text changes within the TTC website. Given the minimal changes needed to the text and the possibility to integrate the Canadian and Irish videos, the decision was made to maintain one website that will be applicable for both Canadian and Irish teens. It is anticipated that this adjusted website will be ready for launch in Ireland by the summer of 2018. Reviewing the integration of Irish and Canadian context also provided a realistic view and confidence on the possibility to later on integrate information relevant to the Scottish context.

All in all, the research visit to Toronto was fantastic as it allowed me to collaborate face to face with Dr Sara Ahola Kohut and Prof Stinson’s team, whilst learning and developing the ideas for Scottish adaptations of the existing self-management programmes.  For that opportunity I am grateful to the Canada-UK foundation for the funding which allowed the trip to take place and would encourage my colleagues to seek and attain funding for visits like this as they can be invaluable.

Find out more about Dr Line Caes research & start a conversation with her on Twitter @LineCaes 

Our featured image for this post includes (left to right): Cathy Schmidt, Line Caes, Alexandra Theodorakidis, Siobhan O’Higgins