Dr. Kim Lavoie – Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Behavioural Medicine

Translational Multidisciplinary Health and Psychosocial Behavioural Research in Preventive Medicine

Developing innovative approaches for the treatment of the largest causes of death and disability worldwide: non-communicable chronic diseases

Non-communicable chronic diseases, like heart disease, lung disease, cancer, and obesity, are the largest causes of death and disability in the world.

Despite important advancements in the field of medicine, non-communicable chronic diseases (NCDs) are on the rise. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 70% of deaths worldwide results from NCDs. In Canada, the prevalence of severe obesity has increased 300% since 2003. Currently, 13% of Canadian children and 28% of Canadians adults are obese. Obesity not only constitutes a risk on its own but is also a major risk factor for all other major NCDs. Important underlying causes of NCDs include poor health behaviours, including tobacco use, physical inactivity, and poor diet.

There is an inherent opportunity in treating the causes of non-communicable chronic diseases; health behaviours can be monitored, modified, and reinforced.

Poor health behaviours are still poorly addressed by current medical approaches. This underlines the need to develop more effective behavioural interventions to help minimize poor health behaviours and improve overall health. This in turn helps reduce healthcare costs and lessens the burden on the healthcare system. Whereas severe obesity affects 3% of Canadians, it accounts for 21% of obesity-related healthcare costs.

Dr. Lavoie’s research program seeks to support patients with their health behaviours and support physicians in behaviour change counselling.

Dr. Lavoie’s research program will develop and test novel behavioural interventions on two fronts: first, improving health behaviours in patients undergoing bariatric surgery, and secondly, developing programs to help train physicians in behaviour change counselling approaches to better motivate patients to adopt healthier lifestyles. Improved health behaviours have been shown to prevent or improve NCD outcomes. However, uptake of behaviour change intervention approaches by healthcare providers remains low and implementation is often poor.

Dr. Lavoie’s research will include both patients and physicians, a strategy aimed at enhancing uptake and effectiveness.

Using innovative methods, the interventions to be developed will be evidence-based, stakeholder-informed, and readily implementable. These are not to serve as alternatives to mainstream traditional medicine but as fundamental and requisite complements to it. It has been estimated that over 80% of the population sees a healthcare provider on a regular basis which offers behaviour change education opportunities delivered through motivational communication (MC) approaches.

Based out of her dedicated research and training centre, the Montreal Behavioural Medicine Centre (MBMC), Dr. Lavoie’s research will contribute to generating currently lacking empirical data on efficacy and supporting the development of valid and reliable MC competency assessment tools that are increasingly accessible and easier to administer.

Dr. Lavoie’s research is expected to generate two events yearly and the development of a variety of tools, such as research guides and webinars, over the seven-year tenure of her Canada Research Chair.

Dr. Lavoie’s research will also recruit and train the next generation of international behavioural medicine researchers through direct scholarship funding, an international exchange program (namely in France, the UK and Ireland), and yearly training opportunities such as the IBTN Summer School in innovative behavioural interventions.

Collaborative international partnerships will help support Dr. Lavoie’s research, including the International Behavioural Trials Network (IBTN), the Canadian Network for Health Behaviour Change (CAN-Change) and international experts from organizations, such as Réseau de recherche en santé cardiométabolique, diabète et obésité (CMDO, Québec), Obesity Canada, Hypertension Canada, the Canadian Thoracic Society, the CIHR-SPOR Network (Canada), and the CEPS platform (France), the Centre for Behaviour Change (UK), and the Behavioral Medicine Research Counsel (USA).

Keywords: Behavioural medicine, chronic disease prevention, health behaviours, behavioural, interventions, obesity, bariatric care, behaviour change counselling, motivational communication, integrated knowledge translation

This research program is undertaken thanks to funding from the Canada Research Chairs Program.