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Advancing public health services research in Canada: Developing a Pan-Canadian agenda

Principal investigators:

Marjorie MacDonald and Gilles Paradis

Principal knowledge user:

Trevor Hancock

(listed alphabetically):

Anita Kothari, Heather Manson, Pat Martens, Gina Ogilve, Greg Taylor


Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Meeting Planning and Dissemination Grant

Funding period:

April 2010 – March 2011

Public health services research (PHSR) is an emerging area within health services research. Funding for health services research is directed primarily at the health care system in general, and not specifically at public health services. At the 2009 Canadian Public Health Association Conference, we held a workshop to “float” the idea of developing a PHSR agenda for Canada. This session was very well attended and participants from across the country confirmed this need and expressed interest in participating in the process. At that time, the Ontario Agency for Health Promotion and Protection (OAHPP), the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), and three of CIHR’s Applied Public Health Chairs all expressed interest in partnering in a process to establish a Canadian agenda for PHSR.

The purpose of our study was to host a national think tank of knowledge users and academic researchers, as well as international consultants, to engage in discussion and debate about PHSR priorities in Canada.


The specific objectives of the think tank were:

  1. To identify research priorities in public health services/systems.
  2. To establish a national PHSR agenda.
  3. To develop a draft five year plan to advance the agenda.
  4. To establish a pan-Canadian PHSR network.


Three primary activities took place over the year:

Activity 1: Literature review on PHSR
A review of publications and reports produced in Canada, the US, and the UK was undertaken. The purpose was be to identify: a) prior work done to define PHSR, its scope, potential, and benefits; b) the nature of PHSR currently being done in Canada, if available; and c) priorities that have been identified in the three countries under review.

Activity 2: Conduct an on-line survey on PHSR priorities in Canada
An online survey asking about public health services research priorities was conducted. An electronic survey was sent out through a variety of public health networks including health departments in regional health authorities across the country, health units where no regional health authority exists, CLSC’s in Quebec, provincial departments of Public/Population Health within Ministries of Health, other provincial level agencies, researchers known to be engaged in public and population health research, and relevant departments within federal agencies such as PHAC. Notices were also posted on relevant websites with a link to the survey. The results were used to facilitate and provide a basis for discussion of research priorities at the think tank.

Activity 3: Conduct an agenda setting think tank with key stakeholders
A two-day meeting was held in Spring, 2011 in Montreal, Quebec. The agenda and participant list will be finalized in one or more team planning meetings (by teleconference) of all the co-applicants.


For more information about this grant please contact Heather Strosher, ().


Core Public Health Functions Research Priority Think Tank (2007)

CPHFRI Think Tank Final Report 

Canadian Public Health Services and Systems Research Think Tank (2011)

PHSSR Think Tank Final Report
Overview of Online Survey Findings

2011 National Meeting in Montreal Powerpoint Presentations (2011)

Developing an Agenda for PHSR in Canada - Marjorie MacDonald
The Status of Public Health Research in the UK - David Hunter
The Status of PHSSR in the United States - F. Douglas Scutchfield
CIHR Institute of Population and Public Health - Nancy Edwards
CIHR Institute of Health Services and Policy Research - Robyn Tamblyn

Academy Health 2011 Poster (2011)

Developing an Agenda for Public Health Services Research in Canada - Trevor Hancock and Marjorie MacDonald

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