World MS Day: Celebrating research that advances independence for people affected by MS

Since 2009, people around the world have marked the last Wednesday of every May in their calendar as World Multiple Sclerosis Day. Launched by the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation, World MS Day is an annual campaign that supports and connects the 2.3 million people living with MS across the globe with the goal of raising awareness and taking action to end MS.

This year’s World MS Day revolves around the theme of independence. For some people living with MS, independence means not having to rely on others for anything. For others, it means having the freedom of choice, even if one of those choices is accepting the support of others. Every person has their own definition of what independence means to them, and this year we’re celebrating all forms of independence for all people affected by MS.

The MS Society continues to invest in research that helps people affected by MS maintain, regain or strengthen their independence. Some of the ways that these research programs and investments contribute to promoting independence are broken down in the MS Society’s latest News Release, and includes a number of  wellness initiatives such as the MS Wellness Survey, Hack4Health wellness project and the Hermès Canada | MS Society Wellness Research Innovation Competition.

Some of the researchers currently funded through the MS Society’s operating grants program and studentships/fellowships are also exploring research questions that play a role in various aspects of independence. Here are some highlights:

  • Linda Carroll (University of Alberta): Dr. Carroll’s operating grant focuses on the idea of resilience, defined as the ability of individuals to rebound from difficult emotional experiences or adversity. Using a combination of clinical, questionnaire and interview-based information, Dr. Carroll is looking at ways of empowering people living with MS to strengthen their own sense of resilience. Dr. Carroll, who is wrapping up her study this summer, has worked closely with a group of people living with MS to develop and refine an extensive online survey to gather detailed information about resilience and MS.
  • Nadine Akbar (Kessler Foundation): As part of a Postdoctoral Fellowship, Dr. Akbar is part of a team carrying out a randomized controlled clinical trial evaluating the impact of a home-based physical activity program on various aspects of health-related quality of life, including fatigue, cognition, and activities of daily living. Since a large part of independence involves dismantling barriers to accessing services and programs, Dr. Akbar’s research is crucial since it explores alternative methods of promoting physical activity that are tailored to people living with disabilities who might otherwise not have access to physical activity programs.
  • Justin Chee (University Health Network): Many people living with MS experience difficulties with mobility that can impact their quality of life and independence, while mobility aids such as four-wheeled walkers can sometimes lead to an increased risk of falls. Doctoral student Justin Chee is working to build an improved assistive mobility device that can monitor changes in walking patterns and brain function in order to provide feedback to users about their stability, in turn stimulating adaptation and improvements in mobility. Mr. Chee hopes that by having the opportunity to adapt to changes in their mobility, people living with MS using this device will be able to walk around safely and maintain greater independence.

On top of ongoing research studies aimed at strengthening independence, there are now more disease-modifying, symptom management, and complementary treatment options available for people affected by MS than ever before. Every individual living with MS experiences their disease and responds to different treatments in their own unique way. By having more options available for people to manage their disease with an approach that’s effective and suits their personal needs, a greater sense of independence is within grasp for more people living with MS today.

Join the conversation about World MS Day with the #WorldMSDay and #strongerthanMS hashtags and tap into our communities on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and check out this video highlighting the inspiring champions across the community who are being brought together by the MS Society to join #TeamFight.

Categories Research

National vice-president, research, past MS researcher, and PhD in Cellular and Molecular Medicine from University of Ottawa. Leads the MS Society's research program to find the cure for MS and improve the quality of life for people affected by the disease.

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