Self-health: Sun Life supports online risk assessment tool

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Stephen J. Toope, President and Vice-Chancellor of UBC (L) and Kevin Dougherty, President of Sun Life Financial Canada (R). Credit: John Smee.

Faculty of Medicine experts in men’s health, women’s health and eHealth are collaborating – with funding from Sun Life Financial – to equip Canadians with a tool to assess their risk of developing common illnesses over the next 10 years.

The online questionnaire will ask users approximately 17 questions about their lifestyle, family history and medical status. In the background, an algorithm designed by the UBC team will weigh and rank their answers against risk factors for various illnesses.

The tool will deliver tailored recommendations to help Canadians be pro-active, rather than reactive, about their health. For example, men in their late teens and early 20s will learn to self-examine their testicles once a month. Testicular cancer is curable if found early.

“The goal is for men and women who are at higher risk of illness to seek appropriate advice on prevention and early detection. This will ultimately have huge downstream benefits on health, society and health economy,” says Larry Goldenberg, Professor and Head of the Department of Urologic Sciences, who is working on the tool with Sarah Finlayson, Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Kendall Ho, Director of the UBC eHealth Strategy Office.

Sun Life Financial donated $246,000 to the Faculty of Medicine to develop and launch the tool. A marketing and outreach plan is underway to launch the men’s tool this year, and the women’s tool in 2014.

“Canadians who have a better understanding of their health risks can curb further complications down the road. We’ve seen this first-hand through our workplace health and wellness programs,” says Kevin Dougherty, President of Sun Life Financial Canada. “Our major health sponsorship focus in Canada is diabetes, so we’re proud to fund the University of British Columbia’s initiative, which encourages Canadians to take action on their health – a critical step in preventing and managing diabetes and other serious illnesses.”