Protecting children from maltreatment
Professor Tracie Afifi, a world-renowned expert in child maltreatment and mental health, has been awarded a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Childhood Adversity and Resilience. The award provides $1.4 million over 7 years for her research through the Canada Research Chair Program and Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
The primary research of the professor in the departments of community health sciences and psychiatry at the Max Rady College of Medicine uses a public health approach to understand how the experiences of child maltreatment is associated with negative mental and physical health outcomes. Her research focuses on preventive efforts and has proposed innovative research questions that go beyond clinical observations with the examination of nationally representative data. Regularly quoted in international and national media outlets, she has informed the global debate on the use of physical punishment as a means of child discipline.
“It is a great honour to be awarded a Canada Research Chair and I am grateful for everyone who has supported my research program over the years, including my mentors and colleagues, and my dedicated students who share a passion for this research,” says Dr. Afifi, a UM alumna and scientist at the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba, who has received numerous awards throughout her career, including the 2019 the Gold Leaf Prize for Outstanding Achievements by an Early Career Investigator from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
Dr. Afifi believes that if child maltreatment can be prevented, then you can change a child’s trajectory, improve health and strengthen families. Her work has demonstrated that child maltreatment is related to poor mental and physical health outcomes in adulthood. Importantly, Dr. Afifi’s research has indicated that not all individuals who experience child maltreatment will suffer poor outcomes, making these individuals seem more resilient. (Read more about her work in ResearchLIFE.)
For Afifi’s CRC program, the next steps are to understand what protective factors are related to improved health outcomes following child maltreatment in an effort to develop evidence-based intervention strategies. In addition, she is already developing approaches that are effective in preventing child abuse and neglect.
“I have had the pleasure of watching Dr. Afifi’s research career develop over the years, from an emerging early career researcher to an established scholar in her field,” says Digvir Jayas, vice-president (research and international) and Distinguished Professor at UM. “This recognition of her research excellence by the CRC Program is phenomenal news for our society because she consistently produces ground-breaking work that shifts our understanding of how we can protect children from maltreatment. The UM community is proud of her work and wishes her success as a newly appointed CRC.”
For Afifi, a parent herself, the work is rewarding on many levels.
“Our vision is to use data to identify real-world strategies to prevent maltreatment,” she says. “That will improve children’s long-term health outcomes and strengthen families.”
UM has an allocation of 52 Canada Research Chairs.