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Dr. Jennifer Walker awarded $500K for research on dementia in Indigenous peoples

Laurentian Indigenous Research ‘Dream Team’ to Advance Research in Indigenous Cognitive Health

Laurentian University’s Dr. Jennifer WalkerCanada Research Chair in Indigenous Health, was awarded $500,000 from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) for her project titled, Validation of the Canadian Indigenous Cognitive Assessment Tool in three provinces.  This will be the first Canadian study to develop a valid, reliable and culturally-adapted Indigenous Cognitive Assessment tool that can be used in the diverse Indigenous populations within Canada.

“This will be a major contribution to the quality of front-line health care provided to aging Indigenous populations and will form a solid foundation for ongoing surveillance of dementia rates,” said Dr. Walker. “I look forward to working with communities in Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan, on this very important research initiative.” 

Members of Dr. Walker’s research team include: Dr. Lynden Crowshoe from the University of Calgary, Dr. Carrie Bourassa (HSNRI) and Dr. Janet McElhaney (HSNRI).

As part of the Canadian Government’s CIHR Dementia Research Strategy, $500,000 was also awarded to Dr. Janet McElhaney, Vice President of Research & Scientific Director, Health Sciences North Research Institute (HSNRI), with co-applicants from Laurentian University.  This project will use a community-based approach to combine Indigenous practices with Western technologies to empower caregivers supporting older Indigenous peoples with dementia.  Members of Dr. McElhaney’s research team include: Dr. Jennifer Walker, Dr. Sheila Cote-Meek, Dr. Taima Moeke-Pickering, and Dr. Kristen Jacklin, NOSM.

“These two projects highlight the emerging position of Greater Sudbury as a national leader in health research with Indigenous populations,” said Dr. Rui Wang, Vice-President Research at Laurentian University. “Both projects are powerful examples of innovative, patient-focused research collaborations between researchers at Laurentian University, The Northern Ontario School of Medicine and Health Sciences North Research Institute.”

These research grants build upon three major advancements in Indigenous research at Laurentian University: The appointment of Dr. Jennifer Walker as Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Health, the establishment of the Maamwizing Indigenous Research Institute, and a new Advancing Indigenous Research Fund to accelerate Indigenous specific research activities.


Key facts include:

  • Indigenous populations in Canada are at higher risk of developing dementia.
  • Indigenous organizations and communities are working collaboratively with researchers to address health data needs.
  • Rates of dementia for Indigenous people are reported to be 34% higher than the non-Indigenous population and rising more quickly.
  • Prevention, early diagnosis and culturally-adapted approaches can improve the health and quality of life of Indigenous peoples.
  • Only two grants were awarded in this national competition, and researchers in Sudbury secured both grants.
  • Laurentian University currently has 25 Indigenous faculty members.