Healthy, affordable housing is a primary concern for people living in Canada’s North, but one that is not being recognized. Extreme weather and social conditions are contributing to poor housing conditions in many First Nations communities, threatening the health and safety of residents.

To address these problems, University of Manitoba researcher Dimos Polyzois will receive a $475,050 research grant, thanks to the Collaborative Health Research Projects (CHRP) program.

The CHRP program is new and jointly funded by two of Canada’s federal granting agencies: the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). The program supports research projects which aim to improve the health of Canadians, Canadian health services, and/or economic development in health-related areas.

According to Polyzois, “This project creates an enormous challenge for us that we are well prepared to assume. It gives us a unique opportunity to make a difference in the lives of First Nations people.”

A civil engineering professor in the Faculty of Engineering, Polyzois will lead a research team that includes: Eleoussa Polyzoi (education, University of Winnipeg); Linda Larcombe (Faculties of Medicine and Arts); Pamela Orr (Faculty of Medicine); Kris Dick (Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences); and Marolo Alfaro (Faculty of Engineering).

The objectives of the proposed community-based research project are to develop a protocol for First Nations housing to meet acceptable healthy and sustainable housing standards, and then to use this protocol to develop a Best Practice Process for First Nations housing renewal. A Healthy Housing Index (HHI) will also be developed to measure the link between housing conditions and health, using both medical and building science. Finally, the impact of children’s health on school absenteeism and academic performance will be examined.

“This major grant reflects the enormous importance of Dr. Polyzois’ work,” said Digvir Jayas, vice-president (research) at the University of Manitoba. “The CHRP program is substantial funding for a project clearly demonstrating the link between housing conditions and health, and leading to improved quality of life for many Canadians.”

Polyzois’ proposed protocol and Best Practice Process will develop the guidelines that need to be followed in order to create sustainable healthy housing. Eventual goals include ensuring uniformity in the renewal process and allowing only qualified personnel to carry out renewal projects. This will guarantee the quality of work and prevent “patch work” by non-qualified contractors.

A leader in the field of composite building materials, Dr. Polyzois has conducted studies in the past examining how the infrastructure and maintenance of 715 Winnipeg homes affected children with asthma. This project aimed to develop an index quantifying the risk associated with a particular home for families with asthmatic children, including school days missed.

For more information contact Melni Ghattora, research communications & marketing officer, (204) 474-9020