Alberta Clinical & Community-Based Evaluation Research Team

What is ACCERT?

ACCERT is an interdisciplinary research lab. This means that the research done in our lab is a collective effort that employs researchers from multiple academic disciplines. 

In our lab, we have collaborated with social workers, data analysts, MRI technicians, (find some more). ACCERT utilizes a broad spectrum of expertise to study topics including Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), substance abuse in youth, and 'reviewing the interactions that individuals with FASD have with the justice system. 

ACCERT's Approach

At ACCERT lab, we approach field research in innovative ways, going beyond traditional methods to gain deeper insights. By embedding ourselves within organizational structures we aim to create collaborative spaces for participants to express themselves more freely. This approach enhances articulation and provides rich, descriptive data. At ACCERT lab, we strive to make a meaningful difference through unique research approaches that uncover valuable insights and promote positive change.  

What is FASD?

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a lifelong disability caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol that results in changes to the developing brain at neurochemical and structural levels. Those with FASD often require support in daily living. The damage can cause problems in social communication, attention, motor and sensory skills, and memory, while increasing the risk of mental health conditions. Scientific evidence shows that there is no threshold for safe low-level drinking during pregnancy or when planning to become pregnant. FASD is often invisible and challenges may not be noticed until children are in school or the teenage years. 

The diagnostic process for FASD relies on an interdisciplinary team approach, and services are not widely available across Canada, especially in rural and remote areas. Research from the ACCERT lab will bridge this gap in knowledge and services. There is a wide variation of alcohol effects on brain development, making no two people with FASD the same, but those with FASD are at an increased risk for mental health issues, school difficulty, addictions, trouble with the law, and difficulties maintaining employment. 

What are structurally marginalized youth?

Some individuals or communities are excluded or pushed to society's margins as a result of the design of our social and political systems. The term structural marginalization has been used to shift the focus away from the person or individual as ‘marginalized’ and emphasize the way in which institutions and systems unevenly distribute power and resources away from certain populations. 

Youths who have encountered early-life trauma, adversity, or marginalization may not have access to the same opportunities as their peers. Consequently, these differences in developmental experiences can lead to challenges in achieving success in daily activities, stemming from developmental gaps that may arise from adversity experiences or a lack of growth opportunities. Furthermore, many youth with systems involvement have lost faith in the systems that are supposed to help them as they have experienced loss, disappointment, and adversity and have developed a strong sense of self-reliance as a means of survival.

There is not a singular experience of marginalization, even among those that share marginalized identities. Oppression such as racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, and classism further intersect with individual experience and personal identity. Only focusing on the presence of marginalized identities can cause harm, as applying  “high risk” labels can impose further marginalization. Systems impact the way people see themselves and go through the world. At the same time, if we want to draw on strengths and gain an authentic picture of their experience, we cannot lose the person in the system. 
DIVERTs a transdisciplinary mental health training platform that is working with ACCERT members to help us conduct research with structurally marginalized youth. DIVERT's goal is to leverage technology to create more equitable and accessible mental health care research and practice in Canada

About Our Lab

Meet Our Lab!

A lot of the labour and research conducted in our lab relies on the hard work of our graduate students. We have undergraduate students up to post-doctoral research fellows working collaboratively on various ACCERT projects. This "intergenerational" layout of students allows students of all levels to both support and teaching students following in their footsteps, and to learn from students ahead of them.