Dr. Tarun Katapally.  Photo by Manfred Joenhck.

The University of Regina has been awarded nearly 4 million dollars in grants to conduct research into Parkinson’s disease, mental health, and integrating physical activity to improve the mental and physical health of Indigenous youth.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale made the announcement this morning at the university, saying all three areas will have a direct and positive impact on the long term health of Canadians. He says each of the researchers will be backed up by a team of scientists, led by the U of R.

It’s a great tribute to the U of R”and it’s an important contribution to science.” He said.

Doctor Tarun Katapally has been awarded nearly $800,000 for a study into culturally appropriate ways to integrate physical activity into the daily lives of Indigenous youth. He says it is the first research project of its kind in the world, and he expects it will help undo some of the damage done over the last 100 years.

So if we engage youth who are anywhere from 13 to 18 now, I’m looking at their health outcomes 20 years from now.” He said.

Dr. Katapally says there is a direct link between mental and emotional health and physical activity. He says that is reflected in the high suicide rate of aboriginal teens, who have been affected by what has happened to their parents and grandparents.

And what has happened here has happened over hundreds of years and I think it is going to take time, but we have to start somewhere,” He said.

Dr. Katapally is working closely with researchers across the country as well as the File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal council and aboriginal youth, who are using smart phone technology in the research. He says Indigenous participation is key to success for the 5 year project.