March 29, 2021

Nursing grad student garners international grant for child development research

Jelena Komanchuk receives support to evaluate effectiveness of interactive game that helps parent-child interactions
UCalgary Nursing doctoral student Jelena Komanchuk BN'13

UCalgary doctoral student Jelena Komanchuk, BN’13, has just received a prestigious grant from the International Society for Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses (ISPN), an organization that supports advanced practice nurses in promoting global mental health-care initiatives and policies.

“I decided to pursue graduate studies after observing health inequities experienced by children exposed to early adversities, such as abuse and neglect,” says Komanchuk, a paediatric RN.

“Children who experience early adversities are more likely to struggle academically and show behaviours like anxiety, depression, hyperactivity and aggression than their peers.”

The ISPN Foundation’s Joyce Fitzpatrick Award will support Komanchuk’s research evaluating the effectiveness of an online parenting program, the First Pathways Game, created by Dr. Judy Cameron, a neuroscientist at the University of Pittsburgh and one of Komanchuk’s doctoral supervisors.

“This is an interactive game that helps parent-child interactions and children’s development by providing parents with game ideas to play with their child,” Komanchuk explains.

Our plan is to empower vulnerable Calgary parents of children between the ages of three months and three years by supporting the health and development of their children with this pioneering online program.

“I am so proud of Jelena,” says Dr. Nicole Letourneau, PhD, Komanchuk’s co-supervisor. “She took a risk to undertake a randomized controlled trial for her doctoral study and needed some funding to enable her to do it and got it! She’s quite a promising young scholar.”

Komanchuk will recruit participants experiencing adversity, like low income, who have internet access.

“We want to provide equitable access to parenting knowledge and supports for families who struggle to access in-person resources,” she says.

“Over 80 per cent of families experiencing adversity report having access to a cell phone or another internet-enabled device. An online program makes sense for improving parenting resource accessibility."