It’s been five years since Dr. Rachel Engler-Stringer, associate professor in the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology at the University of Saskatchewan, was funded for a SHRF Establishment Grant to look at the availability, accessibility and quality of food in Saskatoon neighbourhoods for families with children. When asked five years later what her research has resulted in, her reply is more research.
“Five year follow-up sounds funny to me,” says Engler-Stringer. “The reality is all of my research is connected and constantly evolving.”
And that, in essence, is the nature of research. It’s an iterative process. It builds and adapts to changing situations, landscapes and discoveries. Other grant opportunities come into play and have a role in shaping the direction and scope of research.
At the time of applying for her first SHRF grant in 2010, there was limited research being done in the area of food environments in Canada. Engler-Stringer is currently one of the authors of an article looking at what has been published up until now in this area. Where prior to 2010 there were only a handful of articles published in Canada in total, now she is seeing about four or five articles a month from around the world pop up in her notifications.
“When first thinking about this research it was very descriptive, it was very much [about] let’s characterize food environments,” explains Engler-Stringer. “Now it’s shifting and part of it is moving towards more sophisticated methods and ways of examining relationships between different food environment factors.”
The research area has not only grown exponentially in the past few years, but it’s shifted towards the study of interventions in food environments. That’s also where Engler-Stringer’s research has been moving. In addition to funding received from Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), SHRF awarded Engler-Stringer with a Population Health Intervention Grant in partnership with CIHR, a Collaborative Innovation Development Grant and a Research Connections Grant in the past two years towards her continued research.
All of Engler-Stringer’s research is done in collaboration with community organizations, the Saskatoon Health Region, the City of Saskatoon, other researchers or a combination of these, depending on the project.
Though Engler-Stringer feels her work is continuous, that doesn’t mean the impact of her work, and the work of other researchers in the area, is not being felt. The recently held Food Environments in Canada 2015 Symposium and Workshop that Engler- Stringer was involved in organizing was hugely successful and useful. It resulted in great collaborations for the study of food environments across Canada. From the information shared and gathered, Engler-Stringer and her colleagues are working on a collection of articles that will become a special issue in the Canadian Journal of Public Health.
Engler-Stringer has also been working with other professionals, especially those in the field of nutrition and public health. She shares ways in which they can become involved in doing research themselves at the community level and the kind of changes they can advocate for. Several organizations have taken her results and used them in their own applications for grants and funding to gain support for community programming. Engler-Stringer is continually focused on ways to use her research position to make an impact on people’s day to day lives.
Read more about Rachel’s research over the past five years in the latest Research for Health.