Patty Wellborn

Email: patty-wellborn@news.ok.ubc.ca


 

Event winner Robyn Thomas and runner-up Elizabeth Houghton with Dr. Peter Simpson, dean of the College of Graduate Studies, Katrina Plamondon, featured speaker and assistant professor, and Dr. Lesley Cormack, UBC Okanagan Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal.

Finalists raced against the clock to present their work in a winning way

A compelling presentation of a topic all too familiar to some secured the top spot at yesterday’s eighth annual UBC Okanagan Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition.

For her winning presentation, Robyn Thomas spoke about the challenges family caregivers of children with medical complexity face. Thomas, a Master of Arts student in Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies, captivated judges with her thesis, "Developing the role of the volunteer in supporting family caregivers of children living with medical complexity: A Delphi Study."

She took home first place and the top prize of $3,000. It wasn’t just the judges who were inspired by Thomas’ presentation, though. Thomas also won over audience member’s hearts, taking home the alumniUBC People’s Choice award.

“I’m honoured to have won this competition alongside so many brilliant graduate student researchers,” says Thomas, a master's student in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Science. “It’s exciting to know that community members are interested in my research and I look forward to future opportunities to share my results and findings and make an impact.”

UBC Okanagan’s popular 3MT competition returned this year in an all-new live virtual format, which saw eight graduate students explain years of research in just three minutes to a general audience.

Dr. Katrina Plamondon began the event with her inspiring talk "Walking a Path Toward Equitable Futures," which discussed using research to move all of society toward collective futures that are more beautiful, more connected and more equitable.

Biology Master of Science student Elizabeth Houghton was awarded second place and $2,000 for her presentation, "Influence of postharvest deficit irrigation on sweet cherry cold hardiness in the Okanagan Valley."

“I really enjoyed having the opportunity to share my research with others through this competition,” says Houghton. “Condensing my research into three minutes has taught me important skills that will help me throughout my graduate degree.”

As the winner of the 3MT final, Thomas will represent UBC Okanagan in the virtual Western Regional Three Minute Thesis competition on May 13, 2021.

From there, the top three presenters will win an opportunity to compete in the national competition, hosted by the Canadian Association of Graduate Studies.

2021 UBC Okanagan 3MT winners

Robyn Thomas, winner of the 2021 UBC Okanagan Three Minute Thesis Final.

Robyn Thomas, winner of the 2021 UBC Okanagan Three Minute Thesis Final.

Robyn Thomas

Presentation title: Developing the role of the volunteer in supporting family caregivers of children living with medical complexity: A Delphi Study.

Robyn Thomas is a Master of Arts student in Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies, under the community engagement, social change and equity theme. She is also a research assistant with the Health, Ethics and Diversity Lab at UBCO. She intends to explore the barriers and facilitators that family caregivers of children with medical complexity face when engaging with external support systems. Thomas’s research aims to develop a volunteer navigation program focused on improving the quality of life of caregivers and their children.

 

Elizabeth Houghton, runner-up of the 2021 UBC Okanagan Three Minute Thesis Final.

Elizabeth Houghton, runner-up of the 2021 UBC Okanagan Three Minute Thesis Final.

Elizabeth Houghton

Presentation title: Influence of postharvest deficit irrigation on sweet cherry cold hardiness in the Okanagan Valley

Elizabeth Houghton is a Master of Science candidate in the Biology Department. Working with local commercial cherry growers, she is researching the impact of postharvest deficit irrigation on sweet cherry growth, phenology, and cold hardiness. Through her research, Houghton aims to help enhance the local cherry industry’s resilience to climate change and at the same time contribute to improving water management in the Okanagan Valley.

 

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

UBCO debaters argue for and against at annual Roger Watts Debate 

What: Roger Watts Debate: Be it resolved that the government should have the ability to make vaccination mandatory
Who: Top UBCO student debaters
When: Wednesday, March 31 starting at 5:30 p.m.
Where: Zoom webinar

While many eagerly await their turn in the COVID-19 vaccination queue, UBC Okanagan student debaters are facing off in a provocative debate on public health and governmental power:
Be it resolved that government should have the ability to make vaccination mandatory.

“The pandemic has affected everyone in some way, and that’s the type of topic we look for—one with wide-reaching implications, one that nearly everyone has an opinion about one way or another,” says Dr. Julien Picault, associate professor of teaching in economics and event organizer.

“While the overarching theme of this debate is governmental power, it’s really pitting one’s right to public health and safety against one’s right to choose what goes into their body. Our students have been debating for weeks using thoughtful, evidence-based arguments. Our top debaters have made it to this final round and I expect a high-quality, engaging debate as always,” he adds.

Dr. Picault invites the community to watch these debaters argue their cases before a panel of community judges who will decide the winners. Prizes of $1,000 will be awarded to the first-place finisher, while prizes of $500 will be awarded to the runners-up.

This year student participants will also have the opportunity to compete for the newly-created $500 People’s Choice Award, selected by event attendees.

The annual debate is named after the late Roger Watts, a respected member of the Okanagan’s legal community, a skilled orator and strong advocate.

This event takes place virtually on Wednesday, March 31 at 5:30 p.m.

It is free, open to the public, and supported by local donors and community sponsors.

To register or find out more, visit: epp.ok.ubc.ca/about/roger-watts-debate

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

UBC Okanagan’s Problematic Substance Use Clinic offer low-barrier options for treatment. It offers virtual treatment options and structures fees on a sliding scale based on patients’ income.

Psychological service available to those experiencing problematic substance use

As we pass the one-year mark of living with the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s little doubt the virus has taken its toll on the mental health of many Canadians.

For one UBC Okanagan researcher, a difficult consequence has been witnessing some turn to problematic substance use as a way of coping with pandemic-related stressors.

Ian Wellspring is a doctoral student in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences’ clinical psychology program, and a graduate student clinician working under the supervision of Dr. Zach Walsh in UBC Okanagan’s Problematic Substance Use Clinic.

As the pandemic lingers on, Wellspring offers his observations about increased problematic substance use during COVID-19 and the low-barrier services available through UBCO to assist British Columbians.

Are you surprised by the Canadian Centre for Substance Use and Addiction’s study results?

Unfortunately, I don’t find the results surprising—the sad reality is that COVID-19 has increased our stress levels, caused us grief, isolation, anxiety and many of us are also experiencing economic insecurities because of it. So, when we consider all of these factors that might be acting as potential stressors, regrettably, I think the results are somewhat expected.

Since the pandemic hit, we’ve seen an uptick in substance use across the board whether it’s alcohol, stimulants or opioids. In fact, some data also suggests there’s been a 30 to 40 per cent increase in deaths related to opioid use since COVID-19, which is concerning.

Substance use risk increases in the face of this reality—and in combination with stressors like isolation, grief, anxiety or finances—has a detrimental impact on our mental health. This, in turn, drives the progression to addiction. So this is something we should all be concerned about.

What are some of the reasons people with problematic substance use don’t seek help?

There’s a whole host of reasons why people don’t get help, or feel like they can’t. Some include thinking their use isn’t bad enough to seek treatment, some may worry that they don’t know how to live a good life without that substance, and others may be afraid to fail. There’s still a lot of stigma, which is one of the main barriers to seeking help surrounding substance use and mental health in general. A lot of that comes from attitudes in society, media portrayal of these issues, and the self-judgement, guilt and shame that may come with having lived experience with substance use problems.

The clinic’s mandate is to help the public reduce the negative effects of drug and alcohol use—can you talk more about treatments and what new patients can expect?

We operate on a person-first model and we meet clients wherever they are with regard to substance use. New patients can expect to sit down with their clinician and talk about what’s been going on in their lives, what their concerns are and their future goals. Then the clinician, under the supervision of Dr. Walsh, will work to figure out a treatment plan that will best fit the lifestyle of the individual. Sometimes patients are looking to quit a substance, while others may be interested in decreasing their use. Whatever their goals—our priority is to get them there using empirically-supported approaches like cognitive behavioural therapy and motivational interviewing.

Your clinic is classified as ‘low-barrier.’ What does that mean?

Low-barrier means we’re easy to access and open to all. We’ve tried to decrease financial barriers by structuring fees on a sliding scale based on patients’ income that starts at $10 per hour. We also have flexible payment plans in case individuals can’t pay treatment costs up-front. With the clinic now being offered virtually, we’re hoping that reduces barriers for folks as well—but if people don’t have the appropriate technology to complete treatment, let’s talk about that. If someone is committed to seeking treatment, we’re committed to making it work for them.

Can you discuss some of the clinic’s past successes?

I’m happy to report that we’ve had numerous successes in addressing problematic substance use in the clinic and these really cut across a diverse presentation of substances. We’ve helped patients who have lived experience with alcohol, stimulants, nicotine, opioids and we’ve addressed these issues in a diverse client population. Substance use impacts people from all backgrounds, from the affluent and powerful to some of the most marginalized segments of our community. And our care extends across that spectrum.

I think our successes speak to the importance of getting to know the client and their lifestyle, and tailoring a plan to them. We want everyone to feel comfortable giving us a call and spreading the word about the clinic to friends and family who may need help. We’re not here to judge. No matter where someone is, we’re ready to meet them there.

How can someone get further information about clinic services?

We encourage anyone interested in learning more about our services to call the clinic at 250 807 8241, pressing 1 for reception, or email ipc.ok@ubc.ca.

UBCO is hosting a two-day virtual event this week featuring presentations and in-depth discussions on misinformation and how quickly it spreads

Deception, conspiracy theories, and misleading information topics of UBCO event

Misinformation isn’t hard to find.

It’s polluting news feeds on social media, fills the pages of numerous websites—and it’s even alive and well on some cable television channels.

But how can we combat the spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories while preserving free speech?

Dr. Dan Ryder is an associate professor of philosophy in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and is organizing this year’s Roger Gale Symposium called the Misinformation Age, on Thursday, March 4 and Friday, March 5.

You’ve expressed growing concern over how authoritarian regimes are using mass media to misinform the public. Can you explain what you mean?

When I think about authoritarian regimes in relation to misinformation, two very different things come to mind. First, we have regimes like those in Russia and China who exert careful control over social media content, and spread misinformation within their own countries and abroad.

Second, we have these partial democracies—or democracies with authoritarian leanings—using the problem of misinformation as an excuse to interfere with free speech.

For example, the free press was already quite restricted in Singapore, but now they’re forced to operate within new laws created to stop the spread of ’false statements of fact,’ with rule-breakers facing stiff penalties and government powers in place that can require retractions and corrections.

This means the Singapore government has added a new tool to its arsenal to control the media. It’s part of a worrisome worldwide trend.

As you mentioned, social media platforms are tools increasingly used to spread misinformation. Do owners of these platforms have a moral obligation to monitor and remove this type of content?

This is a tricky issue. Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg quite plausibly says that it isn’t his company’s place to decide what’s true, and that their role is only to provide an unfettered venue for the free exchange of ideas.

But on the other hand, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others aren’t just allowing people to post their ideas online without interference. Their opaque newsfeeds and search algorithms determine what users see; and they want us to keep reading, watching or scrolling so they can collect our data and use it to sell advertising.

A consequence of this business model is that their algorithms often serve us extreme content that arouses emotion, whether or not the content is based in fact. It’s Facebook that’s suggesting we join this group, or YouTube recommending this video. And there’s research to suggest these algorithms have pulled people down rabbit holes of falsehood, conspiracy and hatred. So it’s hard to argue the tech companies are blameless.

That said, they seem to have taken more responsibility lately. For example, Twitter removed Donald Trump’s account after ample evidence he was communicating in bad faith. But the question of how to fix the problem without harming free speech remains to be answered.

In your opinion, is it possible to combat misinformation while preserving free speech?

There are three different places to take action against misinformation: production, distribution and consumption. We’ve talked a bit about the first two—but it’s actually the third one, information consumption, where I think intervening is least likely to harm free speech.

The idea is to make sure people are resistant to misinformation—that they are media literate and have good critical thinking skills.

If people are more media literate it’s harder for misinformation to grow and spread. For example, good thinkers rightly scoff at QAnon nonsense and don’t share it.

Finland has been a bit of a poster child for this strategy. Their efforts to integrate media literacy and critical thinking beginning from the earliest ages are much lauded.

Is it enough? I’m not sure. And since it’s a pretty long-term solution, does it leave our short-term problems unaddressed? I’m hoping the panellists at this week’s event can cast some light on these questions.

Dr. Ryder hosts a panel of well-known experts on Thursday, March 4 and Friday, March 5 for presentations and in-depth discussions on misinformation. For more information or to register for this free event, visit: epp.ok.ubc.ca/about/misinformation-age

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

UBCO research shows that people are not uniformly protected by police services and it demonstrates a classic case of inequity between segments of society.

Economically speaking, these systems only benefit a certain segment of society

New research has determined the prevalence of private security systems may be robbing the general public of the police services they need.

Dr. Ross Hickey is an economist in UBC Okanagan’s Faculty of Management and the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Along with a team of researchers, Hickey examined data from a social survey of Canada victimization, where people answered whether they had added security measures to their homes to protect themselves from crime.

“We are seeing more expenditures on private security systems installed in homes and, as economists, we have to ask why. We know that crime rates are down and expenditure on police is up,” says Hickey. “But private security purchases are at an all-time high.”

Hickey says the research team first thought about the classic supply and demand equations. The government provides the supply, or resources, for policing and there is a demand for public protection. However, when you combine a supply of private security products, then add criminals to the mix, Hickey says the basic supply and demand equation doesn’t add up.

There are many different types of security measures people can take—anything from putting bars on windows to getting a dog, or adding motion-detection lights, house alarms and security cameras. And while they may make people feel more secure, it’s also been proven that a barking dog may deter a thief more effectively than cameras and alarms. Hickey says security systems that automatically alert police, even though it may be a false alarm, can divert police from other duties.

“All of these innovations in private security don’t prevent the crime, they increase the chances of the person getting caught. When the police are called to homes using these technologies, we see the police being taken away from responding to another, perhaps, more urgent call,” says Hickey.

Hickey says their research demonstrates a classic case of inequity between segments of society.

“This is a dimension of inequity that doesn’t show up directly,” he says. “The inequity is in how some people are accessing this public good. It is available for everybody but some people are getting more of it, because they have chosen to install these private systems. And police are responding to those systems.”

The research, says Hickey, means that municipalities should consider police budgets differently than they currently do. Right now, just adding more money to the system does not change the inequity that will continue with the prevalence of home security systems.

“We need to think more carefully about this. In a world where private security investments are happening, we may need to look at different methods of funding the police,” he says.

Hickey says just adding extra funding into the mix is not the solution. Currently, people are not being uniformly protected by police services. And the police are being drawn toward particular segments of society who have privately invested in their own home protective measures.

“Are the people with lower incomes, or those living on the street, getting the same service from police? And we have to ask—if the city adds more police services next year, is that really going to make downtown much safer?”

The research was published recently in the Journal of Public Economic Theory.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

The Misinformation Age event will feature talks from highly respected experts to discuss the role of misinformation.

Experts discuss dangers of misinformation, fake news and conspiracy theories

What: Roger W. Gale Symposium: The Misinformation Age
Who: Expert panel including Timothy Caulfield, Daniel Levitin, Heidi Tworek, Laura Helmuth, Jamal Greene, Gordon Pennycook, Dan Gillmor and Renée DiResta
When: Thursday, March 4 and Friday, March 5 from 1 to 5 p.m. each day
Venue: Online event via zoom

The misinformation age is upon us.

According to a recent study from Statistics Canada, the majority of Canadians have seen what they believe to be false, inaccurate or misleading information related to COVID-19 circulating online.

Only one in five Canadians say they always investigate the suspicious information they encounter, which raises the question—how are the other four reacting to news they’re consuming online, and could they unknowingly be super-misinformation-spreaders?

Over two days next week, the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences’ Department of Economics, Philosophy and Political Science presents The Misinformation Age. The event will feature talks from highly respected experts in the areas of law, internet, psychology, journalism, history and science to discuss the role of misinformation in everything from the pandemic and the 2020 American presidential election to the tools authoritarian regimes use to disseminate falsehoods.

Dr. Dan Ryder, event organizer and associate professor of philosophy, says the symposium is an opportunity to learn about what’s driving the global surge in information pollution.

“To stave off the negative impacts of misinformation, we need to first understand it and then find a way to combat it while preserving free speech,” he explains. “It’s a complex topic, but the good news is that researchers from across disciplines have begun to make real progress in exploring the ‘why’ behind it. This is a battle that belongs to all of us, so I hope the community can join us next week to become a more effective part of it.”

The Roger W. Gale Symposium is a series of events focusing on current issues that overlap multiple disciplines. Its goal is to bring together the academic and public worlds for a fruitful dialogue with subject-matter experts.

This virtual event is free and open to all and online pre-registration is required. To register, or learn more about the lineup of speakers, visit: epp.ok.ubc.ca/about/misinformation-age

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Lesley Lutes, professor of psychology and director of the Centre for Obesity and Well-being Research Excellence.

Event will focus on COVID-19, substance misuse and more

What: Bell Let’s Talk Day virtual mental health panel
Who: UBCO Psychology Professor Lesley Lutes and other clinical psychologists
When: Wednesday, January 27, beginning at 6 p.m.
Venue: Online, virtual event

UBC Okanagan’s Centre for Obesity and Well-being Research Excellence (CORE) and the department of psychology has partnered with the Mind of Mine Foundation to host a community-focused virtual mental health panel.

The event takes place on the eve of Bell Let’s Talk Day—a mental health awareness initiative launched by the company to reduce the stigma around mental illness.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 38 per cent of Canadians say their mental health has declined due to COVID-19—indicating that now, more than ever, people need to feel empowered and comfortable asking for help.

“Every person has been affected in some way by COVID-19,” says Lesley Lutes, a psychology professor in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and director of CORE. “Our new normal isn’t normal, and it’s okay to not be feeling like our usual selves today or any day.”

Lutes, alongside her UBC and community colleagues, have joined the conversation by organizing a panel event to provide a safe space for community members to learn about mental health, and this year, ask anonymous questions to clinical psychologists from the comfort of their homes.

The 90-minute virtual session will cover a number of topics including COVID-19, social media, substance misuse and prioritizing self-care. Advice will also be given on how to become more comfortable with mental health dialogue.

Lutes says attendees can expect an open, honest, meaningful discussion on what stress, burnout and risk looks and feels like, effective coping strategies, how to improve mental wellness and services that are available locally to support BC residents.

“We, as a society, have been through so much this past year. But sadly, suffering, loss, trauma, abuse and tragedy are not new—we just see and feel it more because of what’s been happening,” says Lutes. “What if it took all of this to finally realize that everyone deserves to feel loved, supported, and valued and that nobody should suffer any longer?”

Those interested in attending the event are invited to register and submit their questions anonymously at: eventbrite.com/e/bell-lets-talk-day-virtual-mental-health-panel-2021-tickets-135775388843

Lutes will also be announcing, in partnership with Simon Fraser University’s Scott Lear, the launch of a social media competition aimed to encourage British Columbians to share the ways they are staying socially connected, reaching out and providing support for people’s mental health and well-being during the current challenges of COVID-19.

“Let’s make all of this matter. Let’s make the events of the past year be the reason to finally make that call or reach out for help. And remember, no matter how insurmountable something may seem, just know that you are not alone. Everyone needs support. Everyone.”

On January 28, Bell Let’s Talk Day, Bell Canada will donate five cents to Canadian mental health programs for every applicable text, local or long-distance call, tweet or TikTok video using the hashtag #BellLetsTalk. It will also donate five cents for every Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube view of the Bell Let’s Talk Day video, and every use of the Bell Let’s Talk Day Facebook frame or Snapchat filter.

For more information on the initiative, visit: letstalk.bell.ca

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Unlike opioids, long-term cannabis use does not increase sensitivity to pain

A recent study examining pain among cannabis users suggests that—unlike long-term opioid use—regular cannabis use does not appear to increase pain sensitivity.

Doctoral student Michelle St. Pierre, who conducts research in the psychology department at UBC Okanagan, recently published a study looking for differences in pain tolerance of people who frequently use cannabis compared to those who don’t.

“Recent years have seen an increase in the adoption of cannabinoid medicines, which have demonstrated effectiveness for the treatment of chronic pain,” says St. Pierre. “However, the extent to which frequent cannabis use influences sensitivity to acute pain has not been systematically examined.”

Interest in the use of cannabinoids to help with chronic pain relief has accelerated over the past decade, St. Pierre explains, noting that a recent survey of medical cannabis patients reported that more than half used cannabis for pain relief. That’s despite recent reviews which suggest the effectiveness of cannabinoid therapies for chronic pain is mixed.

“This study should come as good news to patients who are already using cannabis to treat pain,” says co-author Zach Walsh, who leads the UBC Therapeutic Recreational and Problematic Substance Use Lab which hosted the study. “Increases in pain sensitivity with opioids can really complicate an already tough situation; given increasing uptake of cannabis-based pain medications it’s a relief that we didn’t identify a similar pattern with cannabinoids.”

St. Pierre’s study explored differences in measures of pain intensity and tolerance. The authors speculated that people who report frequent cannabis use would demonstrate greater experimental pain sensitivity but instead found no differences.

“There is a different effect from opioid users; sustained use of opioids can make people more reactive to pain. We wanted to determine if there was a similar trend for people who use cannabis frequently,” says St. Pierre. “Cannabis and opioids share some of the same pain-relief pathways and have both been associated with increases in pain sensitivity following acute use.”

The risk of addiction, overdose and opioid-induced hyperalgesia—where someone becomes more sensitive to pain—are major issues when it comes to using opioids to manage chronic pain, St. Pierre says. A patient with hyperalgesia might then increase their dosage of the opioid to manage the pain, further increasing the risk of addiction.

The analgesic effects of cannabis have been proposed to engage some of the similar brainstem circuitry to those of opioids. However, the extent to which cannabinoids induce hyperalgesia has not been determined.

For her study, St. Pierre recruited volunteers who used cannabis more than three times a week and people who didn’t use it at all. Study participants were subjected to a cold-pressor task test, where they submerged a hand and forearm in icy water for a sustained amount of time.

What they determined was that cannabis use doesn’t carry the same risk for hyperalgesia that opioid use does, she adds.

“Our results suggest frequent cannabis use did not seem to be associated with elevated sensitivity to experimental pain in a manner that can occur in opioid therapy,” she says. “This is an important distinction that care providers and patients should consider when selecting options for pain management. These findings are particularly relevant in light of recent reports of opioid overprescribing and high rates of pain in the population, as it suggests that cannabis may not carry the same risk of hyperalgesia as opioids.”

St. Pierre’s study was recently published in the Clinical Journal of Pain.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

UBC researcher Joanne Taylor says shopping at a farmer’s market for local produce or using space in a community garden to grow fruit and vegetables are steps Canadians can take to protect their own food security. Photo credit: Nikita Shoots.

Food insecurity has long been an issue in Canada

As COVID-19 looms into the summer, international borders remain closed, a number of meatpacking and food processing plants are shut, and local farmers face a shortage of migrant workers to harvest crops. Indeed, prices have increased in grocery stores and the stark reality of supply and demand is hitting Canadians in the wallet.

Joanne Taylor is currently a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council postdoctoral fellow in the department of economics, philosophy, and political science at UBC’s Okanagan campus. Her work explores the obstacles and challenges the agriculture industry and producers face while accessing a sustainable water supply for food production during impactful climate change scenarios. Taylor shares her opinion and philosophical approach towards food security, examining what COVID-19 has done to food supply and the real concern of food security across the continent

What is the best way to explain food security?

As defined by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (UNFAO) food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. I suggest we use the term food insecurity, however, as social justice and food sovereignty issues such as ecological damage and greenhouse gasses are largely ignored when it comes to food production and supply. And disproportionate impacts of food insecurity are experienced by those who are most socially marginalized.

In the early stages of the pandemic Canadians experienced a shortage of yeast and flour and a limit on eggs. Is there more to come?

Yes. Since 2008 the global food crisis was identified by skyrocketing food prices, food riots and displacement of the impoverished, indicating that the current food system was not succeeding in eliminating poverty and food insecurity. Other challenges to our food supply include diminishing farmland lost to urban development, loss of healthy soils, forest fires—not to mention climate change-induced drought and flooding on agricultural land right here in the Okanagan.

There is also a dependence on western diets rich in meat and dairy, which rely on animal feed crops. In fact, the current COVID-19 crisis has most affected meat and migrant workers. Canada imports about 45 per cent of its domestic food supply while being the fifth-largest food exporter in the world. Some BC communities export 95 per cent of its produce creating a reliance on California for its fruit and vegetables where drought and forest fires are also prevalent.

How concerned should people be?

We should be genuinely concerned since the ability to be food secure is tied to personal financial ability to purchase food. As we are seeing, many social and environmental calamities are currently affecting not only our food supply but job security in the time of COVID-19—resulting in a decreased ability to purchase food. Increased food prices necessarily place further pressure on our personal or family budgets, creating scenarios where families may be in food-deprived situations.

What can the average household do to protect themselves in the future?

I believe that we should support our local farmers right here in our communities where an abundance of local, fresh, nutritious foods are grown. Shopping at farmers markets and grocery stores that support local producers builds resilient communities and decreases the impact on climate change-induced flooding and drought. Local food is also fresher and therefore more nutritious.

Should we all be growing our own fruit and vegetables?

Learning how to grow food either in your front yard or patio, in community garden plots, or even on borrowed land creates an understanding of how vitally important our food system is, especially when it comes under socioeconomic and environmental stressors.

We’re all thinking this will eventually be over, but will COVID-19 permanently affect Canadians’ food supply?

No one knows how long the current COVID-19 situation will continue or if international farm workers will be able to travel to our agricultural communities. It is therefore critical that we all learn the basics of how to procure local, nutritious foods with an understanding that we must be able to adapt to future climate change-related social and economic disruptions. It has never been more important to buy locally-produced food to support farmers and our communities. And as Canadians, we should never take fresh food and water for granted.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca

Homelessness, high housing costs and sustainability all topics of discussion at Politics of Housing in the Okanagan and Beyond on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.

Events to feature academic and community experts

According to census data from Statistics Canada, in Kelowna alone there are some 3,000 people considered at high risk of homelessness—with another 1,900 identifying as transitionally, episodically or chronically homeless. Adding to community housing woes, Kelowna was recently ranked the eighth-most expensive rental market in Canada, with the median price of a one-bedroom unit sitting at $1,280 and two-bedroom at $1,730, according to the latest Canadian National Rent Report. “Everyone deserves a safe, affordable place to call home,” says Alison Conway, professor in UBC Okanagan’s department of community, culture and global studies. “As Okanagan residents, we’ve heard a lot about the issues associated with housing in our community lately, and I think it’s time we get together and identify why this is happening and find potential solutions.” Conway has organized three public events featuring wide-ranging conversations about housing in the Okanagan and beyond. These events include input from housing experts from Toronto, Vancouver and Kelowna, who will discuss everything from homelessness and high housing costs to sustainability. When: Monday, September 30, from 7 to 9 pm What: Canada’s National Housing Strategy: What it means for homeownership, renting and homelessness Who: University of Toronto Professor David Hulchanski Where: Mary Irwin Theatre, 421 Cawston Ave., Kelowna Keynote speaker David Hulchanski, professor of housing and community development at the University of Toronto, will discuss Canada’s National Housing Strategy. He will cover the strategy in detail, including how it affects homeownership, renting and homelessness. When: Tuesday, October 1, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. (afternoon session) What: Panel discussion: Social housing and homelessness Who:  UBCO and Okanagan College faculty, City of Kelowna councillor Where: UNC 200, University Centre, 3272 University Way, UBC Okanagan David Saltman of the Okanagan Sustainability Leadership Council will moderate a panel discussion on social housing and homelessness. Panelists are:
  • Luke Stack, City Councillor, Kelowna
  • Gordon Lovegrove, UBC Okanagan, School of Engineering
  • Ken Chau, UBC Okanagan, School of Engineering
  • Kyleen Myrah, Okanagan College, School of Business
  • John Graham, UBC Okanagan, School of Social Work
When: Tuesday, October 1, from 7 to 9 p.m. Who: Opening remarks by Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran What: Panel discussion on sustainability focusing on Indigenous and green housing Where: Okanagan Regional Library, Kelowna branch, 1380 Ellis Street, Kelowna After opening remarks by Mayor Colin Basran, UBCO Associate Professor Kevin Hanna, will moderate a panel discussion on sustainability focusing on Indigenous and green housing. Panelists are:
  • John Bass, UBC Vancouver, School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture
  • Jaimie Harris, Heiltsuk Nation
  • Brian Rippy, Okanagan College, Sustainable Construction Technology
  • Trevor Butler, Archineers
All events are free and open to the public, but registration is required at: politicsofhousing.eventbrite.com

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world. To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca