Community-based research improving bone and joint health for all

Dr. Breda Eubank, PhD, expert in musculoskeletal conditions




Creaky knees and aching shoulders are just a couple unpleasant reminders of the inexorable march of time and the effect it has on the body.

For Breda Eubank, assistant professor in the Department of Health and Physical Education at Mount Royal, these common ailments that are often accepted as simple facts of life are a focus of her research.

Bone and joint health conditions are issues almost everyone will experience in their lifetime. And as Eubank points out, these conditions are often overlooked because they are not life-threatening. However, they can result in detrimental impacts on an individual’s quality of life as they age, which can manifest through extreme pain and reduced mobility.

This is why Eubank devotes much of her research to improving care for patients experiencing such issues. Part of that research program is participating in the Musculoskeletal Transformation Program, which is an initiative of the Bone and Joint Health Strategic Clinical Network of Alberta Health Services.

Eubank and her colleagues in the group are dedicated to improving health outcomes for patients living with bone and joint conditions. As Eubank explains, that means “helping the community to better find the right provider, the right treatment, within the right timeframe, and with the right outcomes.” This means engaging clinicians, patients, administrators, academics and policymakers to determine ideal solutions and how they are best implemented.

Engaging with every aspect of the community living or dealing with bone and joint health issues is paramount to the success of the initiative's research. Eubank stresses that if academics and medical providers are “reaching particular outcomes or objectives, and they don’t meet the needs, desires and wants of the community, then those outcomes are meaningless.” In health systems, patients must be included in collaborative research to create care that is tailored to them and their particular ailments.

Advice is also gathered from the medical professionals to inform the direction and outcomes of the research. Eubank notes that listening to those on the front lines and combining their experiences with patient feedback drives the system forward.

However, change comes slowly, especially at the system level, which can be demoralizing. Eubank says, "you need the community to buy into change and policymakers to implement it. When engaging all those levels of stakeholders and they are aware of that change throughout the whole process, it is easier for that change to be accepted and successful.”

With change taking place over years, there is the need for patience, Eubank points out. Frustration is likely or even inevitable, but when researchers collaborate with the community and openly communicate, change will eventually come and be more successful due to the hard work of collaboration.