uOttawa pediatric respirologist joins the study of his dreams in 10-year project on First Nations communities

Pond Inlet Nunavut

“I see this study as my dream study.”

-- Dr. Tom Kovesi, uOttawa professor and CHEO pediatric respirologist

By Chonglu Huang

Dr. Tom Kovesi, uOttawa pediatrics professor and CHEO respirologist, is joining a 10-year, $15-million project to study the health of 5,000 First Nations children in 50 communities across Canada.

The FEHNCY project — which stands for Food, Environment, Health and Nutrition of First Nations Children and Youth — is funded by Indigenous Services Canada and will run for 10 years from 2020 to 2030. uOttawa Faculty of Science’s Dr. Laurie Chan is also part of the interdisciplinary team.

“I see this study as my dream study,” said Dr. Kovesi. “I say that because each Indigenous community across Canada is unique. What may be true for one community in Interior B.C.  is totally different for another in Nunavut. Therefore, the only way to know the housing conditions and associated respiratory health is to visit each community from coast to coast—this study enables us to do that.”

Dr. Kovesi is leading the component of FEHNCY focused on housing conditions, indoor air quality and respiratory health. He is tasked with replicating his recent studies of indoor air quality at Sioux Lookout and Big Trout Lake Nation, where he measured indoor air quality during the coldest months of the season when the buildings are tightly sealed.

The other three components of the FEHNCY project are focused on 1) food nutrition, security and environment; 2) environmental contaminants and the social determinants of health; and 3) community mobilization and intergenerational knowledge building.

As in his previous research studies, Dr. Kovesi will collaborate and receive permission from Indigenous partners, First Nations leaders, and local community members.

“Right from the get-go, the Assembly of First Nations is one of the co-investigators of the FEHNCY study. They will be driving much of the research questions,” said Dr. Kovesi. “This is incredibly important and exciting.”

About the FEHNCY​​​​​​ (Food, Environment, Health and Nutrition of First Nations Children and Youth) Project​Information

Principal investigators:

  • Dr. Laurie Chan, University of Ottawa, Faculty of Science
  • Dr. Tom Kovesi, University of Ottawa, Faculty of Medicine
  • Dr. Tonio Sadik and Irving Leblanc, Assembly of First Nations
  • Dr. Mélanie Lemire, Dr. Richard Bélanger and Dr. Pierre Ayotte, Université Laval
  • Dr. Malek Batal and Dr. Geneviève Mercille, University of Montreal
  • Dr. Treena Delormier and Dr. Mylène Riva, McGill University
  • Dr. Jiping Zhu, Health Canada

Data collection:

The data collection begins this January with two pilot communities to test the methodology and data collection tools. Starting in September 2020, five to 12 First Nations communities will be randomly selected each year from within the seven Assembly of First Nations regions, of which 100 households will then be randomly selected.

The FEHNCY team of principal investigators

The FEHNCY (Food, Environment, Health and Nutrition of First Nations Children and Youth) team of principal investigators at the project launch on, November 6, 2019 in Ottawa.

Dr. Kovesi at Sandy Lake on the radio.

Dr. Tom Kovesi (pictured) has been researching indoor air quality in northern Indigenous homes for nearly two decades. His work began with a 2003 study in Nunavut after seeing very high numbers of Respiratory syncytical virus (RSV) amongst newborns in Inuit communities.


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