Improving care for people with chronic disease

U of A researcher and his team win award for their work's impact on people with diabetes, kidney failure, heart disease and other chronic conditions

Janet Harvey - 19 March 2013

(Edmonton) Medical research, at its root, is about improving people's lives through the development of better health care and treatments. So when a researcher and his team receive an award because of their impact on the health of people in Canada and around the world, it is high praise indeed.

Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry researcher and kidney specialist Marcello Tonelli, winner of the Top Canadian Achievements in Health Research Awards. Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry researcher and kidney specialist Marcello Tonelli has been named one of the winners of the Top Canadian Achievements in Health Research Awards. Tonelli, who works in the Department of Medicine in the Division of Nephrology, is one of three team leaders of the Interdisciplinary Chronic Disease Collaboration (ICDC). He and the other two leaders, Brenda Hemmelgarn and Braden Manns of the University of Calgary, were all named co-winners of the award.

Chronic disease includes hypertension, diabetes, chronic kidney disease and vascular disease. These conditions often occur together and are the leading cause of death and disability around the world. The ICDC is an interdisciplinary team of researchers, government policy-makers and health-care decision-makers whose goal is to improve the health of people living with, or at risk of, chronic disease.

The awards, sponsored by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Canadian Medical Association Journal, are given for "the discoveries and innovations that had the biggest impact on the health of people in this country and around the world."

"It's really about improving the care of people with chronic diseases," says Tonelli. "In partnership with key decision-makers in Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services we identify mutual priorities and then design research projects that try to improve access to care, quality of care, efficiency of care or satisfaction of care. So we are absolutely delighted to receive this award. It reflects the hard work of all the members of our team, including our decision-maker partners."

The work of the ICDC has made impact in several areas of chronic disease care. The team developed a simple urine test to identify those most at risk for kidney failure and heart disease. They worked out a means of identifying clinic locations that would improve care delivery for Albertans with kidney disease who live in remote areas. They helped obtain funding for First Nations outreach kidney disease clinics and multidisciplinary care programs for chronic kidney disease patients. The team's work has influenced international clinical practice guidelines to improve care for patients with chronic disease. And the team evaluated Alberta's Primary Care Networks (PCNs) in terms of care for patients with diabetes and found that patients managed in PCNs in Alberta experienced better outcomes.

The ICDC receives funding from Alberta Innovates - Health Solutions and the CIHR.