April 28, 2023

University of Calgary awarded largest research grant in its history

One Child Every Child to transform the lives of all our kids
Natalie and Everly Tram with Tommy Akinnawonu
Natalie and Everly Tram with Tommy Akinnawonu. Adrian Shellard

The University of Calgary has earned a $125-million grant from the Government of Canada for child health and wellness research, helping us launch the One Child Every Child initiative.

The Canada First Research Excellence Fund support for One Child Every Child was announced today in Montreal. It represents the largest grant ever awarded to an Alberta university. More than 130 organizations across 25 countries are partnering with UCalgary including the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation, the Azrieli Foundation, UNICEF Canada, Children’s Healthcare Canada, and the national network Inspiring Healthy Futures. Investments from all partners bring total research support for the project to $268 million.

In 2020, UNICEF ranked Canada 30th out of 38 wealthy countries in child health and wellness. We need to do better. To address this, One Child Every Child brings together Indigenous partners, Canada’s child health research institutes, equity-deserving communities, local and national stakeholders as well as global collaborators. Led by the University of Calgary, institutional research partners include the University of Lethbridge, Athabasca University and the University of Alberta.

“This historic investment in child health and well-being marks a milestone for Canada. This is a story of excellence driven by four decades of our community investing in child health,” says Dr. Ed McCauley, PhD, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Calgary.

A story of firsts.

In 2020, the University of Calgary was the first in Canada to declare child health and wellness an institution-wide research priority.

“We are overjoyed at this monumental support for research for children, youth, and families,” says Dr. Susa Benseler, MD, PhD, the research lead, and director of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute (ACHRI) at the University of Calgary. “We are deeply proud of our teams and our partners — all share a heartfelt commitment to transform outcomes.”

Achieving our goals means really listening to the voices of children, families and communities. “This grant has so much potential to ensure a livable future for the children of Canada. I am so proud to live in a place where this research is being invested in and cared about,” says Tommy Akinnawonu, a youth research adviser.

A story of partnership.

“Data and discoveries from our research will be shared with policy-makers and partners to guide decisions with the potential for the biggest impact,” says Dr. William Ghali, MD, vice-president (research).

Parallel paths shape, inform and guide all aspects of One Child Every Child, setting it apart from any research initiative ever attempted.

“This journey began with ii’ taa’poh’to’p, our UCalgary Indigenous Strategy,” says Dr. Michael Hart, PhD, vice-provost (Indigenous engagement) and associate vice-president (research - Indigenous engagement). “The promise of One Child Every Child is to really listen to Indigenous voices and ensure Indigenous priorities and solutions are being heard and acted upon.

One Child Every Child will focus on improving the health and well-being of pregnant women, infants and preschoolers to ensure better beginnings. It will investigate precision health and wellness, improving the journey from diagnosis through treatment for kids with chronic and complex medical needs. And it will support children with neurodevelopmental and mental-health conditions to help them shift from vulnerable to thriving.

“Collectively, we represent the largest and most productive concentration of child health researchers in Canada,” says Dr. Benedikt Hallgrimsson, PhD, deputy director of ACHRI, and co-author of the scientific strategy. “As we make scientific discoveries, we will work with our partners to implement those findings and overcome barriers to optimal child health.”

A story of community.

One Child Every Child’s equity, diversity and inclusion action plan identifies three priorities: Indigenous self-determination and health equity, inclusive governance, and disrupting child health inequities through an intersectional lens. “We met with equity-deserving organizations across Canada as we wrote our plan,” says Dr. Bukola Salami, RN, PhD, professor of nursing, University of Alberta. “The voices and priorities of these national partners will allow us to accelerate outcomes for equity-deserving children.”

“This is a turning point in child health and wellness research — one rooted in a long-standing partnership with our wonderful community. We look forward to the many new discoveries that will be made here and shared globally to elevate the health and wellness of children and families everywhere,” says Saifa Koonar, president and CEO of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation.

"As a youth with lived experience, I'm really excited to see how this grant will reduce disparities,” reflects Tommy Akinnawonu. This is what Canada needs right now.”

Child Health and Wellness

The University of Calgary is driving science and innovation to transform the health and well-being of children and families. Led by the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute, top scientists across the campus are partnering with Alberta Health Services, the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation, and our community to create a better future for children through research.

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