November marks an important milestone for the staff at the Rick Hansen Institute.
With our colleagues at UBC’s International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries (ICORD), the Brenda & David McLean Integrated Spine Clinic of Vancouver Coastal Health, and our community partners, volunteers, supporters and funders, we are celebrating the 5th Anniversary of the Blusson Spinal Cord Centre.
Blusson – a true gem made possible by the generosity of Stuart and Marilyn Blusson, the BC government, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the University of B.C. and Vancouver Coastal Health around Rick Hansen's vision of a collaborative working environment – is the place we call home.
Blusson is where thousands of individuals meet each year to receive treatment and support and exchange ideas. It is also where hundreds of researchers, staff and clinicians work to solve one of the most devastating and expensive initial and ongoing health care challenges in the entire medical system: paralysis from spinal cord injury (SCI), sustained as a result of a sudden trauma, such as a motor vehicle collision or fall, or illness.
For those who sustain an SCI, life is changed forever – physical functioning, independence, employment, health, and community participation are all affected.
While the number of injured is relatively small – about 86,000 Canadians, including 12,000 British Columbians with one form of SCI or another – the impact to the health care system is high.
In Canada, the cost of care for people with new traumatic spinal cord injuries is now estimated at $2.7 billion a year, with more than $350 million of this cost incurred in BC.
Secondary health complications of SCI cost $84 million annually, $34 million of which is due to 1,900 hospital re-admissions.
The most common of these secondary complications, pressure ulcers and urinary tract infections, occur in the non-SCI population as well, costing the BC healthcare system $203 million and $773 million per year, respectively. This economic impact is compounded by the fact that unemployment among Canadians with SCI is as high as 65 percent.
Photo Credit: Dr. Evan Kreider
A History of Innovation
The Rick Hansen Institute was created in 2007 by the Rick Hansen Foundation, with substantial support from federal and provincial governments to accelerate innovation by leading collaboration throughout Canada. It has created and championed a pan-Canadian network of researchers and health care practitioners; supported 41 translational research, best practice implementation, community participation and networking projects involving more than 1,180 health care professionals and people with SCI; and co-developed with Accreditation Canada, the first accreditation standards for acute and rehab care facilities in Canada.
Another example of the tangible outcome of investments from governments and individuals is Blusson, an 11,000-square-metre, state-of-the-art facility that brings together specialists under one roof where they can collaborate to discover and implement novel treatments and approaches into improved outcomes, independence and quality of life for people living with SCI and their families.
Together, this partnership of 300-plus professionals spans basic and clinical research, clinical care, and knowledge translation, informing best clinical practices locally, regionally, nationally, and beyond.
In a few short years, we’ve seen the Blusson Spinal Cord Centre become a world-renowned research and care facility, where some of the best from around the world come to work.
The results from this work and others related to our mission include: more accessible physical spaces, more services for those with disabilities, international leadership in the treatment and care of spinal cord injury, and for BC, recognition as one of the best places to live for people with disabilities in the world.
Our best work remains ahead of us
As far as we have come, we still have a long way to go.
Recently, the Government of Canada announced long-term funding to the Rick Hansen Institute and the Rick Hansen Foundation is further investing in RHI and ICORD to help leverage and accelerate our work.
Having funding confirmed is a major milestone for RHI and could not have been achieved without the tremendous work of our network partners, volunteers and Canadians with SCI. The first five years of our collective efforts were focused on capacity, infrastructure and network building.
Going forward, RHI will place far greater focus on identifying cures for SCI and effectively translating research results into the medical and technological interventions required to improve the quality of life for individuals with acute and chronic SCI and to reduce health care costs.
This will continue to include generating knowledge about SCI, translating the knowledge and affecting change in clinical practice to result in better outcomes for people with SCI.
Thanks to the federal government and the tireless advocacy of Rick Hansen and the Rick Hansen Foundation team, funding renewal will have a far-reaching impact - not only for Canadians and our health care system, but for people around the world, and will further solidify Canada's reputation as an inventive, global leader in SCI research and care.
At this time of unprecedented scientific progress and transformative global communications technology, a world without paralysis after SCI is possible.
We look forward to sharing further details of our progress over the coming months and welcome your questions and comments.
Rick Hansen Institute