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Associate Professor Dana Anaby

PIAC - Dana Main page


Dana Anaby, PhD, is an Associate Professor at the School of Physical and Occupational Therapy at McGill University, Montreal, Canada and the director of the ASPIRE lab (Advancing Strategies for Participation-based Initiatives in REhabilitation).

Dana’s research encompasses the areas of participation and well-being among children, youth and young adults with disabilities, with a special focus on leisure community-based participation and the impact of the environment. Her studies, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, involve developing and testing intervention plans such as the PREP (Pathways and Resources for Engagement and Participation) to improve community engagement, as well as enhancing measurement tools to assess Participation and Environment for transition-aged youth in different settings: home, school, community and the workplace (Y-PEM). She is investigating ways to build capacity of youth, parents, community and school-based service providers to develop solution-based strategies to address participation challenges through coaching and exchange of information. She also leads Knowledge Translation initiatives; particularly those aimed at accelerating the uptake of evidence surrounding participation into day-to-day clinical practice. Recent work includes the P-KT roadmap (Participation-focused Knowledge Translation) and the P-KT booklet to guide all stakeholders to foster a shift in practice.  Dana is the Principal Investigator of a range of pragmatic clinical trials, testing the multiple benefits resulting from ‘top-down’ participation-based interventions that occur in real-world context. Her ultimate goal is to contribute to improved provision of pediatric rehabilitation services and inclusion for all.

Session Theme: Co-producing participation approaches and solutions for equity

The environment (e.g., physical, social, institutional) plays a key role in shaping participation of individuals with disabilities and is therefore an effective target of interventions.

The Pathways and Resources for Engagement and Participation (PREP) is one of the first “real-life’’ interventions that aims to enhance participation in different settings among clients with various conditions by modifying aspects of the environment only (interventions do not directly address impairments in body functions).

Specifically, PREP aims to build capacity of youth, parents, community and school-based service providers to co-develop solution-based strategies to address participation challenges through coaching and exchanging information.

To date, PREP has been successfully implemented worldwide –including in Canada, the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, India, Israel, Brazil, Taiwan, Australia– and has proven effective in promoting participation in different settings: home, school, community, and the workplace.

In this presentation, I will share evidence to support the PREP, highlighting the multiple benefits (both initial and long-lasting) including those beyond participation (outcomes at the body-function level) generated by engaging in chosen activities. Emphasis will be placed on the processes and outcomes of “capacity building” and how it can be captured through unique research designs, leading to broad, transformative changes in participation across various contexts.

Why is the topic of participation important to you?

I see participation in meaningful activities as a positive force for individuals’ mental health, sense of belonging, and thriving. Through my research endeavors, both through clinical trials and interviews with youth, parents, and therapists, I was fortunate to witness the multiple benefits inherent in participation. I hope that with accumulating evidence, especially on child-engaging approaches that build the capacity of clients and service providers to develop strategies to address participation issues, our collective work will sway decision-makers to prioritise self-identified participation outcomes in all fields of practice.

Tell us a little bit about what you personally like to participate in!

I like traveling and exploring different cultures globally with my partner, but also enjoy relaxing in our house by the lake. I am also passionate about my research program, collaborating with researchers and stakeholders in different parts of the world, and having stimulating discussions with my graduate students at the ASPIRE Lab.


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