$23.9 million awarded to Canadian Frailty Network

Funds to be used for Queen’s-based research targeting aging Canadian population

Speeches being made at the Canadian Frailty Network announcement on Friday morning.

On Friday afternoon in the BioSciences Complex, Faculty of Health Sciences Dean Richard Reznick made a substantial announcement: the Queen’s-based Canadian Frailty Network (CFN) was given $23.9 million in renewal funding for the next five years.

The funds came from the federal Networks of Centre of Excellence of Canada (NCEC) and will go towards research targeting aging Canadians — many of whom are living longer and healthier lives than previous generations, presenting a brand new set of health challenges.

Reznick was joined in the BioSci atrium by Kingston MP Mark Gerretsen, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) VP Bettina Hamlin, Interim Vice-Principal of the Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences John Fisher, as well as Chairman of the CFN Russell Williams and Professor of Critical Care Medicine John Muscedere.

The CFN consists of 44 member institutions, funding over 400 frailty research projects. Queen’s role has consisted of providing guidance to get the network off the ground.

Frailty, according to the group, is a state of increased vulnerability. This state can come from reduced physical reserve and loss of function across multiple body systems, reduced ability to cope with normal or minor stresses, any of which can cause rapid and dramatic changes in health.

Recognizing frailty is a key to improving patient care, according to the CFN. “Frailty matters to Canada,” Fisher said during his announcement speech on Friday. “Every Canadian family is affected by frailty at some point.”

According to his numbers, around one in four people over the age of 65 and one in two over the age of 85 cope with frailty in Canada, totalling over one million Canadians. “If you look at the demographics it’s scheduled to double by 2020,” he added.

Frailty is linked to higher consumption of health care resources, according to Fisher, and costs roughly $220 billion a year that Canada spends on healthcare.

“Nearly half of this is spent on people over 65,” Fisher said, “yet they represent 15 per cent of the population. Despite the growing problem and prominence of frailty there wasn’t a lot of research until we came along. These are very complex needs and the Canadian health care system needs to change. The status quo isn’t an option.”

NSERC VP Bettina Hamlin discussed the importance of innovation and discovery in health care research, which should be enabled by the next five years of funding.

“These networks are the go-to mechanism when it comes to large scale collaborative and multi-disciplinary innovation initiatives,” Hamlin said.

“They really focus on strengthening the dynamic interplay between discovery and innovation. This also happens to be one of the key strategic goals of NSERC and it is where Canada need to be successful.”

According to the announcement speeches, the government of Canada and NCEC’s investment into the CFN has enabled the organization to then secure $33 million from over 50 partners. This, in turn, sets the stage for new partnerships and further collaboration.

“There’s many partners when you build a network like the Canadian Frailty Network,” CFN Chairman Russell Williams said. “But there is no better partner than Queen’s University. Its been the foundation and home base for everything that we’ve done … from when it was on the drawing board to now, Canada’s only national organization addressing frailty.”

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