Stories of research, nutrition, and nature

Translational research

Less than two weeks and then I’ll be back in Finland. Wasn’t it just a blink of an eye ago when it was still summer? Time flies like an arrow. Aikakärpäset pitävät nuolesta.

Translation from English to Finnish doesn’t always work very well, as any Finn who’s used Google Translate might know. Similarly, translation from research to real world is challenging. Findings of laboratory experiments or pilot studies with a friendly crowd may not be applicable in real life situations, unless researchers also understand how communities, organizations, and policies work.

At Cornell, there is Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research that helps researchers and communities connect. (Incidentally, Urie Bronfenbrenner was the creator of the social ecological model, which categorizes the multiple levels of influence on behaviour.) People working at the center offer training, connections and small grants to investigators who wish to foray into real world and make a difference. They also synthesize research findings and translate them into understandable and usable format to communities. That means not using language like “There is a large body of experimental evidence which clearly indicates that members of the genus Mus tend to engage in recreational activity while the feline is remote from the locale”.

Social Ecological Model

Image from Boston University School of Public Health

Another related program is the Cooperative Extension, although it’s even more of a hands-on program that aims to engage the public and transfer research-based knowledge to them. As far as I’ve understood, all land-grant universities provide Cooperative Extension programs.

In Finland, we have the Centre for Health and Technology in Oulu, which seems to have a somewhat similar goal – connect universities with other organizations and companies, bring together providers and users of technologies. Should we have something similar in Tampere and other cities/regions (or do we already have and I just don’t know about it)?

I’ve become a firm believer in translational research – now I have a name for what I want to do. I’m also nowadays constantly reminding myself to always, always think about public health improvement as the ultimate outcome. In dissemination, M-PACE is a potentially useful method to tailor evidence-based interventions to new audiences.

Despite all this, I didn’t really do any translational research during this year. That’s going to be one of my new year’s resolutions: always strive to make a difference.

Be the change you wish to see in the world.


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