Health Authority Capacity Building Program: A catalyst for change

1 May 2009

In the spring of 2009, MSFHR published an evaluation of its Health Authority Capacity Building (HACB) program, which was launched in 2003 to help BC's health authorities engage in and use health services and policy research. The results clearly indicate that the $4.8 million invested over the five-year program was money well spent.

The HACB program was an initiative of the Ministry of Health Services-funded Health Services and Policy Research Support Network, facilitated by MSFHR. One-time funding was provided to all six health authorities, which in turn hired staff to find ways to incorporate research results into health system decision-making.

"The MSFHR HACB award was very front-line in terms of its focus on staff involved in health care delivery and decision-making," says Tanis Hampe, Regional Manager, Research & Evaluation for Northern Health. "The concept was brilliant — the funding was sent directly to health authorities, which enabled us to develop programs specific to our needs."

The evaluation report found that over the seven-year program, 100 research capacity building initiatives were implemented involving more than 11,000 participants. Factoring in web based resources and services, the report estimated the reach of the program at more than 200,000 participants.

Especially noteworthy were increases in research support infrastructure within health authorities: prior to the program, four of the six had little or no research support in place. Also reported were increased research skills among staff; the creation of more than 50 research-related partnerships among health authorities, academic researchers, and other research initiatives; and more frequent use of evidence by health authorities to inform decisions about service delivery, with reference to more than 200 examples.

Hampe says programs implemented in Northern Health included decision support (assisting staff to acquire, assess, adapt and apply evidence), evaluation support, research project development support and education services. She also credits MSFHR for making possible a memorandum of understanding between Northern Health and the University of Northern BC that will see the two organizations addressing northern health issues in partnership. One initiative resulting from the memorandum is a new Innovation and Development Commons, designed to become a one-stop-shop to support innovation, quality and effective decision-making in the health authority.

Findings from the evaluation report:

  • Across all health authorities, 11,077 participants were reported as participating in capacity building events and services related to the HACB program.
  • 74 percent of participants in the capacity building activities report that their research skills increased as a result of participating in or accessing capacity building services.
  • Health authorities report 50 different research partners across all health authorities, with 78 percent of research partnerships developed during the HACB grant period.