Dr. Kelly O’Brien’s research program is focused on episodic disability and rehabilitation in the context of HIV and chronic disease. She is also a founding member of the Canada-International HIV and Rehabilitation Research Collaborative (CIHRRC).

Specific research interests include: measuring and modeling episodic disability from the perspective of adults living with HIV (Episodic Disability Framework), developing and assessing the properties of patient-reported outcomes (PROs) of disability (HIV Disability Questionnaire (HDQ)), and examining effectiveness of physical activity and exercise interventions among adults living with HIV (Community-Based Exercise Study). Methodological areas of interest include: measurement, structural equation modeling, implementation science, Rasch analysis, qualitative methods, survey research, and systematic reviews.

Episodic Disability and Rehabilitation Research Program

Dr. O’Brien is a Canada Research Chair in Episodic Disability and Rehabilitation. She leads an internationally recognized program of research in episodic disability, HIV and rehabilitation with the aim of examining the episodic nature of disability experienced by people aging with HIV and determining the effectiveness of rehabilitation interventions to improve health outcomes and advance care, policy and practice. 

The overall goal of Dr. O’Brien’s research program is to profile the episodic nature of disability experienced by people living with HIV and determine the effectiveness of rehabilitation interventions in order to improve health outcomes, and advance care, policy and practice.

Specific objectives are:

1) To profile the episodic nature of disability among adults aging with HIV over time;

2) To determine the effectiveness of community-based exercise (CBE) interventions for their ability to reduce episodic disability and enhance physical activity and health outcomes among adults aging with HIV; and

3) To further advance the development and property assessment of the HIV Disability Questionnaire (HDQ), a patient-reported outcome (PRO) developed to describe the presence, severity and episodic nature of disability in the context of HIV and chronic illness.

Outcomes from this research program will help to:

  • Establish the first longitudinal profile of episodic disability providing evidence on the burden of aging with HIV and multi-morbidity over time.
  • Produce the first known HIV-specific CBE intervention in Canada evaluated for effect and translation into the ‘real-world’ community.
  • Establish the first HIV-specific patient-reported outcome measure of episodic disability, positioning the HIV Disability Questionnaire (HDQ) for broad use in HIV clinical, health-services and community-based research.

Results will this program of research may lead to the future adaptation of the disability measurement and CBE interventions with other chronic and episodic illness populations to bridge the fields of HIV and complex chronic disease and transfer research knowledge into practice.