Helping Canadian kids breathe easier
Asthma affects three million Canadians, and causes about 500 mostly preventable deaths each year, according to the Asthma Society of Canada.
Hannah Schreier, a native of Germany and a 2011 Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship recipient, is investigating how family and neighborhood environments influence youth with asthma.
"Your social environment can influence your physical health in so many ways. It’s fascinating to me," says Schreier, who is pursuing a PhD in psychology at The University of British Columbia.
While current research tends to focus on asthma’s environmental triggers, Schreier hopes that her studies will unveil how other factors, like the family environment, are also important. She believes families that implement daily routines are better at getting their kids to take their asthma medication regularly, leading to better health.
Schreier is also working to determine if students who do regular chores at home or volunteer work have improved physical health. As part of this project, she is following 120 grade 10 students in Vancouver, BC. Half the students will do volunteer work, while the control group won’t. She suspects the students who volunteer will have slightly better physical health outcomes.
"Performing household tasks and volunteering in the community might make kids feel better about themselves and boost their self-esteem," she posits.
For foreign students like Schreier, the Vanier scholarship provides funding that is not usually available to students from abroad. Schreier hopes to finish her PhD by the end of 2012, stay in Canada for postdoctoral work and then open her own lab.
Schreier says the Vanier funding has allowed her to focus more on her research than would otherwise be possible. "It’s great for any doctoral student to have financial stability while they do their studies." As a bonus, "it allows me to go to conferences, where I get to see what other people are doing, and to network. That’s not a luxury all doctoral students have."