Supporting the evaluation of public health renewal

9 September 2011

When the BC Ministry of Health developed the Core Public Health Functions Framework in 2005 as a road map for renewal of the public health system, Dr. Marjorie MacDonald and her ministry colleague Dr. Trevor Hancock saw a unique opportunity. To ensure the framework effectively informed future planning and investment in health services, a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary study of its implementation and outcomes would be required.

Supported by a 2006 MSFHR Team Planning award, MacDonald, a registered nurse and professor of nursing at the University of Victoria, assembled an inter-disciplinary team of academic researchers and key decision-makers at the local, provincial and national levels. Together, this team developed a research agenda to inform the evaluation of public health system renewal.

The resulting program, the Core Public Health Functions Research Initiative, encompasses several distinct research projects related to the overall goals of advancing public health services research, informing public health system renewal, improving the integration of health services, and training expert researchers.

MacDonald credits the MSFHR Team Planning award as a vital support for her team to develop a research agenda.

“We were awarded a $35,000 grant from MSFHR and $15,000 from the BC Ministry of Health,” says MacDonald. “We used the funds to hire a research coordinator and to develop principles and guidelines for collaboration. Without a coordinator, it would have been difficult to devote the necessary time to developing the many proposals necessary to build the program of research.”

A 2008 MSFHR Team Start-Up award provided further support that MacDonald says has been instrumental in building the infrastructure to leverage national funding and expand the program’s scope. Having identified the need to compare public health renewal across provinces, the team applied for and received funding to conduct an inter-provincial comparison between BC and Ontario, and is poised to take the program to the national level.

“We’re now in the process of finalizing the national public health services research agenda,” says MacDonald. “We were observing a similar process going on in the US and were inspired by their success and momentum to emulate the process in Canada.”

The team has received grants from a variety of sources, including the BC Centre for Disease Control, the Ontario Agency for Health Promotion and Protection, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), and several Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) grants totaling approximately $2 million. In addition, MacDonald received a CIHR/PHAC Applied Public Health Research Chair Award of approximately $1 million over five years.

“All of this was really initiated with the MSFHR Team Planning award and supported by the MSFHR Team Start-Up award,” says MacDonald.

For more information, visit the Core Public Health Functions Research Initiative website.