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38 IHP February/March 2010


Holistic Health Research

Foundation of Canada
Delivering objectivity to the discipline of complementary medicine.
By Alarica Fernandes
Photography By Dean Sanderson

K eren Brown, Executive Director of the Holistic Health Research Foundation of Canada, excitedly
described for us the many research and education initiatives the foundation has spearheaded over their
five-year existence. Holistic Health Research is a national registered charitable organization dedicated to
improving the health, wellness and quality of life of all Canadians, by advancing the scientific understanding of
complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). The foundation funds high calibre, multidisciplinary research
in complementary therapies conducted at academic institutions across the country, and organizes education
events and programs for conventional and complementary health professionals, as well as the general public,
regarding the safe and effective use of evidence-informed complementary healthcare.

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Holistic Health Research defines holistic healthcare as “the • By highlighting Canada as an international leader in
art and science of healing which embraces the integrated designing, delivering and translating clinical research in
role of body, mind and spirit.” The foundation embraces the complementary and integrative therapies.
concept of seeking underlying cause of illness, as opposed
to only managing symptoms. Individuals are encouraged to Holistic Health Research has established several research
educate themselves about how best to protect and enhance funding initiatives since it launched in late 2004. Research
their own health, to share in their own healthcare decision- in the field of complementary medicine is beginning to
making, and to be active participants in the healing process. increase significantly, and the Foundation is excited to
contribute to this growing body of knowledge. Because
The vision of Holistic Health Research is to champion some existing CAM research has been criticized for failing
the transformation of healthcare in Canada to emphasize to take into account the real world practice of the therapies
prevention, holism and integration. In collaboration with being investigated, the foundation’s funding philosophy
other like-minded individuals and organizations, the encourages multidisdiplinary research teams combining the
foundation ultimately intends to shape Canadian healthcare expertise of experienced CAM practitioners with the skills
in four fundamental ways: of exceptional researchers in major academic institutions.
• By playing a significant role in policy changes that lead to As a young organization, the foundation currently focuses
the integration of effective complementary therapies with on granting funds for smaller pilot projects – promising
conventional medicine in clinical practice. results from those projects can then be used by researchers
• By encouraging and providing tools for the teaching of to seek funding for larger scale trials from funding agencies
evidence-based complementary medicine as an integral such as CIHR. All projects are peer reviewed by a panel of
component of undergraduate and continuing medical reviewers with expertise in research design, as well as the
education. modalities being studied.
• By advocating for appropriate regulation and funding
of effective integrative services and therapies through Holistic Health Research has established a Massage
provincial health care plans. Therapy Research Fund in partnership with the College

40 IHP February/March 2010


of Massage Therapists of Ontario, and with support from Holistic Health Research has identified cancer as one
the Massage Therapists’ Association of BC, the Ontario of its strategic focus areas over the coming years. Its
Massage Therapist Association, individual massage CAMpaign for Cancer initiative supports research
therapists and the public. The MTRF provides grants in and public education that advances the scientific
massage therapy research through an annual research understanding of the potential role that CAM and
competition, open to qualified researchers at Canadian integrative healthcare can play in the prevention,
academic institutions. To date, the Massage Therapy management and treatment of cancers. The CAMpaign
Research Fund has provided a dozen grants in massage is supported by individual and corporate donations, as
therapy to academic institutions from coast to coast. well as through the Aldo Fund, named in memory of
Nutrition House co-founder Aldo Dominguez. Through
The Canadian CAM Research Fund was formed in this initiative, the foundation has supported research at
partnership with the Canadian Interdisciplinary Network for Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital to develop a method to
Complementary and Alternative Medicine Research (IN- test for vitamin D and its metabolites in prostate tissues.
CAM). The inaugural annual research competition to fund The test, when developed, should be an important tool
pilot projects in CAM and integrative health was announced for researchers in many other cancer fields, including
in fall 2009, with grants to be awarded in spring 2010. breast, colorectal and lung cancer. Plans are in the works
for an annual research competition in integrative cancer
Also this past fall, the foundation announced the creation care to be established in the near future.
of the Homeopathy Research Fund (HRF), in partnership
with the Homeopathy Research Network of Canada The Van Iterson Fund for Alternative Cancer Treatments
(HomeoNet). Spearheaded through this new fund, was established in 2007 to further research in selected
researchers will be collecting data on the clinical use of complementary and alternative cancer treatments. The first
homeopathy in the treatment of H1N1 influenza, as part of project supported by this fund is currently underway at the
a multi-country research project. University of Calgary.

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“The foundation funds high calibre, multidisciplinary

research in complementary therapies conducted at
academic institutions across the country”

Other examples of research funded by the foundation bridging the gap between conventional and complementary
include the development of criteria for a multivitamin healthcare practice. The future looks exceptional for this
supplement that will be used in normal, healthy adults to young nonprofit organization as it successfully gains the
discover its impact on mood and immunity (conducted at support of the public, corporations both within and outside
the University of Calgary) and a pilot study on massage the natural health products sector, complementary and
therapy for hospitalized high-risk pregnant women conventional healthcare providers, and researchers across
(involving Women’s College Hospital and Centennial Canada. Sound, objective, human research holds the key to
College in Toronto). reaching conventionally trained physicians. With the help
of Holistic Health Research, complementary healthcare
Holistic Health Research is also active in creating providers are being handed the tools to effectively integrate
educational opportunities for health professionals and the with conventionally trained physicians.
public. In addition to being an active sponsor of IN- CAM
professional conferences, the foundation has held four of its
own annual educational events – The Immunity Challenge
(University of Toronto 2006), The Cancer Continuum Holistic Health Research Foundation
(University of Toronto 2007), The Healthy Brain (Ontario of Canada Leadership Team
Science Centre 2008), and The Long, Healthy Life (Ontario
Science Centre 2009) – and provides audio recordings
and handouts of the speakers’ presentations through its
Keren Brown - Co-Founder & Executive Director
new online Live Learning Centre. Its fifth annual event,
Healthy Transitions, is scheduled to take place in October
2009, and will explore evidence-based natural strategies Board of Directors
for optimizing health throughout the various stages of life. Aileen Burford-Mason, PhD - Co-Founder & President
The foundation is proud to have been granted continuing Deborah Worrad, CDir - Chair
education credits for its events from several health Donna Herringer - Vice-Chair & Treasurer
professional regulatory colleges, including MAINPRO Pamela Hodgson, RMT - Secretary
credits from the College of Family Physicians of Canada. Nadine Bukmuz, MD - Director
Raffaele Filice, MD - Director
IHP is grateful to Keren Brown for the opportunity to Katherine Macklem - Director
introduce our readership to the Holistic Health Research
Mark Ware, MD - Director
Foundation of Canada. Although early in their history,
the foundation has already made impressive strides in

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