CHEO Research Institute leading the way with precision child and youth mental health initiative


Ottawa, Ontario — Monday March 4, 2024

Does an adolescent’s gut microbiome provide clues that can help unravel the mystery of why eating disorders are so hard to treat in young people?

How closely related is movement to a kid’s mental wellbeing? Can we develop an app that creates an individualized action plan to help them achieve better mental and physical health?

Can we leverage synthetic data to conduct unbiased mental health research to accurately fill in the gaps of small pediatric populations, all while preserving patient privacy?

These are just a few of the questions being tackled as part of the CHEO Precision Child and Youth Mental Health (PCYMH) initiative – a multi-year donor-funded project in partnership with SickKids.

Precision child and youth mental health is a growing field that focuses on data about each patient’s unique genetic, biomarker, environmental, and lifestyle characteristics.

“In my entire career, I have never been more excited about the potential to transform child and youth mental health care than I am right now,” said Dr. Kathi Pajer, Medical Director of the CHEO PCYMH initiative and Senior Scientist at the CHEO Reseach Institute. “The technological advancements and innovative use of data and artificial intelligence in research and clinical transformation is unlike anything I have been a part of. As the demand for child and youth mental health services skyrocket and waitlists continue to grow, we need to find better ways to get to the root of the issue a child is experiencing, so we can provide tailored care that will help them get better sooner and more effectively. Discoveries in precision child and youth mental health will get us there.”

CHEO is actively building and strengthening its data and artificial intelligence (AI) infrastructure to enable research discoveries and clinical transformation. In the past year alone, the CHEO Research Institute has doubled its informatics team, adding AI data scientists, informatics and technical Analysts and additional high-performance computing capacity. Through these investments, CHEO is working to implement new ways to leverage its rich datasets to make groundbreaking discoveries in precision child and youth mental health and other areas, such as rare diseases.

To build awareness and activate the initiative on the global stage, the CHEO Research Institute, in collaboration with the University of Ottawa Department of Psychiatry is hosting the first international Precision Child and Youth Mental Health Conference in Ottawa on June 10 and 11, 2024, at the Shaw Centre. The conference will feature leading thought-leaders including Professor Len Bickman, Chief Artificial Intelligence Officer, Ontrak Health, and Dr. Louise Gallagher, Chief, Child and Youth Mental Health Collaborative, The Hospital for Sick Children and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). To learn more about the conference, visit, and keep an eye out for registration opening this April.

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