World MS Day 2017: Highlighting research that aims to make life with MS better

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Coordinated by the MS International Federation since 2009, each year the last Wednesday in May marks World Multiple Sclerosis Day. May is also MS awareness month, where the MS community unites to raise awareness of the challenges of today and rallies to find solutions for tomorrow. In fact the MS Society of Canada spent a few days in Ottawa, Ontario this month to meet with parliamentarians and make the voices of people with MS heard. Check out the news article highlighting our advocacy efforts around securing income and employment, improving access and accelerating research.

#Lifewith MSWith the goal of helping better the lives of 2.3 million people living with MS world-wide, events around the world have highlighted what it means to live a #LifewithMS– the theme of this year’s World MS Day. The hashtag is being used around the world to share personal experiences and advice on how to improve life with MS.

Additionally, there is a great deal of research taking place around the world that has enormous potential to enhance #LifewithMS, whether it’s through the generation of new treatments, gathering insight into the risk factors for MS, or enabling the development of approaches that help people with MS manage symptoms.

The MS Society continues to invest in research that helps individuals with MS improve their quality of life. Some of this innovative research comes from our wellness platform, which highlights the need for more research in MS and nutrition, physical activity and emotional wellbeing.

The MS Society’s MS Wellness Survey, launched in 2015, prompted the design of funding opportunities that address unmet needs in wellness as identified by people affected by MS. The Hermès Canada I MS Society Wellness Research Innovation Grant competition and the Hack4health Wellness Project were among these new funding opportunities. Let me give you a quick update on both of these initiatives:

  1. Hermès Canada I MS Society Wellness Research Innovation Grants
  • Ann Yeh from the Hospital of Sick Children in Toronto set out to develop a mobile app to increase physical activity levels in youth living with MS. Based on interactions and input with teens with MS, exercise physiologists, neurologists, occupational therapists and mobile app developers the team is currently working to implement and integrate all the recommendations into a well-functioning mobile app.
  • Katherine Knox from the University of Saskatchewan launched a project aimed to provide better access to physical activity for people living with moderate to severe MS-related disabilities. Together with a team of physiotherapists and feedback from the MS community, Dr. Knox is testing a web-based physiotherapy tool to help people with MS manage their disease irrespective of geographical and economical barriers. The team is currently recruiting participants to test the web-based physiotherapy program.
  • Charity Evans from the University of Saskatchewan wanted to determine if a Pilates program would have an impact on #LifewithMS. In collaboration with Pilates instructor and community wellness leader Jana Danielson, Dr. Evans plans on looking at changes in walking ability, balance and quality of life after a 12-week Pilates program. The team has completed recruiting participants that are currently partaking in the Pilates program.
  1. Hack4Health
  • In the first University of Waterloo health-focused hackathon called Hack4Health, Team TBS was awarded a grant in 2015 from the MS Society, to develop a wearable device that would transmit information about a person’s MS symptoms to an app. Last year, Team Roze was selected in the second annual Hack4Health competition for their fitness app for women with MS- stay tuned for more details on the newly awarded Hack4health team and details about their project. Both teams have received a $15,000 grant from the MS Society of Canada – one of the top prizes at Hack4Health – to develop their MS wellness technology with a University of Waterloo faculty member.

Beyond the targeted wellness projects, we were pleased to see researchers and trainees that received funding from the MS Society’s 2017 Annual Research Competition focusing on research that seeks to improve the quality of life for people living with MS. Here are some highlights:

  • Marcia Finlayson from Queen’s University is working on a web-based fatigue management resource for individuals with MS. She is interested in seeing if this resource can improve cognitive function, and reduce depression.
  • Samantha Stephens from The Hospital for Sick Children plans to figure out if exercise is effective in reducing symptoms such as walking ability, relapse rates and quality of life for children with MS.
  • Justin Chee at University Health Network is working to develop a walking device that can detect changes in walking patterns, provide feedback about walking performance, and automating communication with local transportation.

Join the conversation about World MS Day and share with us your story on #LifewithMS in the comments below or on our communities on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

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