Home of Operation Heat Shield Canada
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Home of Operation Heat Shield Canada
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Extreme heat disproportionally impacts the health and well-being of older adults, especially women and underprivileged groups. However, there are substantial inequities in heat preparedness, response, and mitigation planning. Long-standing heat-mitigation guidance adopted by government agencies worldwide to protect the public's and workers' health and safety is inherently flawed because they employ a “one size fits all” approach defined by biased norms and stereotypes, driving health inequities. In partnership with our public health, industry, and academic partners and a cadre of trainees, our team is at the forefront of understanding human heat tolerance and resiliency through an EDI lens by examining how factors such as sex, age, disease, disability, race, ethnicity, and their intersection mediate human survival in heat. This includes assessing how gender identity and other sociocultural identifiers may modulate needs, perceptions, attitudes, and vulnerability to heat.
Moreover, we have many innovative research areas, such as our work to develop alternative and affordable cooling solutions to protect those in resource-poor regions. Equitable access to sustainable cooling hinges on electricity access to lifesaving cooling devices (e.g., air-conditioning (A/C)).
Many of the 619 decedents of the extreme heat event in 2021 in British Columbia were older with low income, or living in marginalized neighbourhoods without access to A/C.
We are also developing targeted protective strategies to alleviate heat strain for women and older adults in the workforce who remain unprotected. Our research will intensify our cutting-edge work to create sustainable heat-protection solutions and technologies to protect the economically disadvantaged and vulnerable people impacted by heat in a way that reduces the inequitable distribution of risks across different populations, making Canada one of the healthiest and safest places to live and work.
We seek engagement with academic institutions across Canada and the world, along with multi-sectoral experts representing a broad cross-section of society, including those from equity-seeking groups, to inspire and mentor trainees. Our team of students, trainees, co-investigators, collaborators, and partners reprsent a highly diverse group of spanning across ages and career stages, with diverse experiences, origins, competencies, perspectives, and knowledge. We encourage collective input from their different points of view at all stages of our research discovery process, including promoting equitable and inclusive participation and decision-making and ensuring an open and transparent research process.
Our established, high-performing, transdisciplinary team is driven by the interdependence of team members, effective communication, and individual and group accountability, which has allowed us to unlock innovative research ideas and methods through problem-solving diversity. This has led to significant scientific and translational breakthroughs in our quest to promote heat-resilient individuals and communities which accommodate and respects cultural and religious beliefs, behaviours and traditions, personal and family needs, among others. Further, to ensure that our research findings are responsive to the needs of Canadians, we have established an assertive outreach that provides opportunities for engagement by all members of the community throughout the research process (e.g., study participants, members of focus groups, public presentations, HEPRU newsletters).
At HEPRU, all individuals are provided with a fair, inclusive, and safe research environment, guided by a code of conduct (HEPRU-HIRE: Honesty, Integrity, Respect and Ethics) outlining expectations of mutual respect and fair and collegial treatment. We support trainees in pursuing research excellence, ensuring they reach their full potential, regardless of their experiences, origins, and background. We encourage individual and team creativity and exchanging ideas through practical and respectful communication. This includes recognizing religious or cultural observance requirements and family and personal responsibilities associated with varying socio-economic backgrounds and privileges and intentionally accommodating needs by providing fair and equitable access to research support, space, and resources, reviewed weekly.
Engagement, goals, and expectations for training are discussed individually, with milestones defined and reviewed regularly to identify barriers and determine actions for mitigation. Regular communication among trainees is encouraged to develop a positive sense of community and engagement, including participation in weekly HEPRU meetings where each member is given equal, uninterrupted speaking time.
Further, trainees are given opportunities to participate in or organize public lectures by members of underrepresented or disadvantaged groups and on topics of concern to these groups. They are also provided opportunities for engagement with academic, public health, industry, and other partners to augment and enrich their training. Our mentoring approach and research design are building capacity for the next generation of researchers to address research questions through an EDI lens.
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