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Giving families the tools to care for children affected by Zika

At a glance
The intern

Lisandra Oliveira from Universidade Federal da Bahia, Brazil

Hosted by

Drs. Patrick McGrath and Anna Huguet at Dalhousie University’s Department of Community Health and Epidemiology

The research

Investigating parenting interventions for parents of children with neurodevelopmental disorders

This summer, Brazil is at the centre of a worldwide epidemic of Zika virus, a mosquito-borne illness now confirmed to be a cause of microcephaly (underdeveloped brains) in newborns. Families across South and Central America must learn to care for children diagnosed with the disability, which causes speech and movement impairments and intellectual disabilities.

Thousands of kilometers away in Halifax, Canada, Mitacs Globalink intern Lisandra Oliviera is working with a team of researchers at the IWK Health Centre to conduct a systematic review of intervention therapies for parents of children with disabilities similar to microcephaly – a family of conditions known as neurodevelopmental disorders. The parenting intervention includes an “orientation” for family members to develop their parenting skills in ways that will help with management of symptoms and improved mental health for the children.

The researchers hope to use the findings in the development of an online tool to provide intervention therapies to families with children who have neurodevelopment disorders, especially those in rural or remote areas.
Lisandra

Lisandra hopes her research can have an impact in her home country of Brazil:

We will be sharing our findings with researchers from Brazil; [we] hope that they can use them to help families with children that have microcephaly because of Zika virus.”

She continues, “This research is really important to me because I want to help these families, and to give their children better lives because of the findings.”

After one month in Halifax, Lisandra already has many good things to say about her experience: “This internship is giving me an opportunity to work toward my career goals and to grow as a person. I am working with people who are really good in their research, and want to do their best to change children’s lives for the better. And I really like it here in Canada – Halifax is a safe and beautiful place!”


Mitacs would like to thank the Government of Canada, along with the Government of Alberta, the Government of British Columbia, Research Manitoba, and the Government of Quebec for their support of the Globalink Research Internship program. In addition, Mitacs is pleased to work with international partners to support Globalink, including Universities Australia, the China Scholarship Council, Campus France, India’s Ministry of Human Resource Development, Mexico’s Secretariat of Public Education, Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education, and the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education, and Tunisia’s Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research and Mission Universitaire de Tunisie en Amerique du Nord. 

Photo: (2004) Evolutionary History of a Gene Controlling Brain Size. PLoS Biol 2(5): e134. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0020134 used with permission via Creative Commons Attribution Licence (CC BY).