April 30, 2019

Honourable colleagues, I rise today to share an example of the sort of creativity, innovation and determination needed to reliably transform state-of-the-art knowledge into standard practice. This is called knowledge mobilization. It is surprisingly hard to do, and we need to get better at it because we can’t afford to have our best ideas locked away in research papers or scientists’ brains.

Canada is great at turning money into globally competitive ideas, but too often we fail to turn those ideas into money, exports and opportunities. When it does happen, it takes too long. Various estimates show that it takes about 17 years for research knowledge, particularly health research knowledge, to become standard practice. When it comes to our children, that’s an entire generation missing out.

Canada is a global leader in pediatric pain research, but we weren’t applying that knowledge for the benefit of kids, parents and clinicians. As a result, our kids were literally suffering unnecessarily.

But that all changed when Dr. Christine Chambers partnered with Erica Ehm. Dr. Chambers is the Canada Research Chair in Children’s Pain and a Killam Professor of Pediatrics and Psychology & Neuroscience at Dalhousie University. Erica Ehm, of “Much Music” fame, is a pioneer in content marketing, digital publishing and community building.

These two entrepreneurial leaders from very different backgrounds disrupted traditional knowledge mobilization practices by engaging with parents on social media and empowering them with the evidence needed to make sure that clinicians closed the gap between state of the art and standard of care.

The #ItDoesntHaveToHurt initiative was an outside-of-the-box approach to knowledge mobilization, combining evidence, technology and storytelling to engage with Canadian parents about children’s pain management. It provided parents with the state-of-the-art knowledge that they then delivered in turn to clinicians and, I expect, rather forcefully from time to time. #ItDoesntHaveToHurt generated 150 million impressions worldwide in just one year, won several awards and even caused a children’s hospital server to crash under the load of parents accessing evidence-based resources.

The extraordinary success of this initiative demonstrates that we need to change how we reward those researchers who strive to find creative ways to apply their work. This level of determination and creativity should not be the exception. It must become the rule.

A new national knowledge mobilization network — Solutions for Kids in Pain, or SKIP — leverages this highly successful public-private partnership model. It is based at Dalhousie University and co-led by Children’s Healthcare Canada. SKIP will continue to close the gap between current treatment practices and the very best solutions in children’s pain management.

What Christine Chambers and Erica Ehm have achieved — now helped by a determined team that has accelerated their work — proves that we can do much more to unlock the endless opportunities that lie within Canadian research discoveries.

Representatives from SKIP have been on the Hill today to meet with parliamentarians. I encourage all honourable senators to drop by Room B-45 today here in the Senate of Canada Building, between 4 and 6 p.m., for a reception where you can meet this team that’s demonstrating that we can rapidly mobilize knowledge and have a global impact if we build innovative partnerships.

Let’s create the expectations and conditions necessary to close the gap between state of the art and the standard of care.

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