Oct. 9, 2020

Nursing faculty member receives funding to move important intervention programs to virtual delivery

Research one of four UCalgary projects to receive COVID-19 mental health and addiction funding

UCalgary Nursing’s Dr. Linda Duffett-Leger, PhD, has received nearly $200,000 funding from CIHR for a COVID-19 Mental Health and Addiction grant, ATTACH & VID-KIDS: Rapid User-Informed Web and Mobile Interface Development Adaptation and Pilot Testing to Support Children's Mental Health and Development. A researcher in user-engaged health technology design, Duffett-Leger will work with co-principal investigator Dr. Nicole Letourneau, PhD, a professor with UCalgary Nursing, and Alberta Children's Hospital Foundations Chair in Parent Infant Mental Health, to adapt Letourneau’s CIHR-funded interventions, VID-KIDS and ATTACH, to online delivery.

“COVID-19 has placed unprecedented strains on already vulnerable families,” explains Duffett-Leger, who is also a member of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute Institute (ACHRI) at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM). “We will build on the success of Dr. Letourneau’s two intervention programs - which were successfully designed for in-person (home or clinic) visits to improve the parent-child relationship - by transitioning them to virtual delivery.”

The initiative is among four research projects at the university that are being funded through COVID-19 Mental Health and Substance Use Service Needs and Delivery Operating Grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

“Mental health and addiction are critical issues as Canadians manage day-to-day life during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Dr. William Ghali, MD, vice-president (research) at the university. “These projects will support the well-being of citizens as we navigate our current challenges, and we are grateful to CIHR for their commitment to this work.”

Duffett-Leger adds that early attempts to move the programs to online delivery, in an effort to help families during the pandemic, revealed insurmountable barriers to using commercially available technologies. “That just affirmed the need to develop and implement user-informed virtual care delivery platforms and mobile tools,” says Duffett-Leger.  

“This is a unique opportunity for nursing and software engineering to work together on a project that will undoubtedly have a significant impact on the virtual delivery of parenting interventions to promote child mental health and development,” she continues. “The design team has been working hard with nurse interventionists and parents involved with the programs on the prototype designs and we plan to launch both virtual platforms by the end of the year.”

ATTACH™ (Attachment and Child Health) is a parenting intervention program, designed with community agencies serving families of preschoolers affected by toxic stress, to improve their reflective function, a skill that underpins parental sensitivity and responsiveness. VID-KIDS (Video Feedback Interaction Guidance for Depressed Mothers and their Infants) aims to promote children’s mental, emotional and behavioural health and development by helping mothers with postpartum depression to be more sensitive and responsive to their infants. Both programs are positioned for transition to virtual formats and the timing is ripe for rapid uptake in Canada.

This is Duffett-Leger’s first CIHR grant; it ranked 10th out of 21 funded applications and 167 total applications.

The other UCalgary research projects that received funding are:

  • Traumatic Stress and Mental Health Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Front-Line Workers in Homeless Services: Dr. Jeannette Waegemakers Schiff, PhD, an associate professor in the Faculty of Social Work
  • Nothing Without Us: Towards inclusive, equitable COVID-19 policy responses for youth with disabilities and their families: Dr. Jennifer Zwicker, PhD, director of health policy at the School of Public Policy, assistant professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology, and member of the Owerko Centre, ACHRI   and the O'Brien Institute for Public Health at the CSM. Zwicker also holds a Canada Research Chair in Disability Policy for Children and Youth.
  • Screening Student Resiliency and Mental Health Indicators During School Re-Entry – Dr. Kelly Schwartz, PhD, is an associate professor in School and Applied Child Psychology at the university’s Werklund School of Education and a member of the Owerko Centre within ACHRI at the CSM Read more