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Section IV: Other Items of Interest

Health Canada's Regional Structure and Operations

In January 2006, Health Canada created a new Public Affairs, Consultation and Regions Branch. The creation of the Branch afforded the Department the opportunity to better bring national and regional perspectives to policy and program development, service delivery strategies, and communication and consultation functions. It allowed the Department to clearly define and clarify roles, responsibilities and accountabilities in a manner that contributes to the overall success of the Department and allows for a greater degree of coherence and integration of all operations in the regions.

Health Canada's seven regional operations (British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba/Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, Atlantic, and Northern) represent the face of the Department to Canadians through their role as front- line service and information providers, as guardians and regulators and by the delivery of health services and programs in First Nations and Inuit communities. These roles allow Health Canada to maximize the reach and effectiveness of departmental programs and services as well as to respond to the varied needs of diverse communities that the Department serves across the country. The creation of a new single Northern Region recognized the distinct program and service delivery challenges and opportunities of people in the territories.

Regions achieved an ambitious agenda of outreach and engagement with partners and stakeholders including provincial and territorial government departments, regional health authorities, health boards, research and academic institutions, non-governmental organizations and First Nations and Inuit governing bodies. This commitment was illustrated by the negotiations that led to the signing of the First Nations Tripartite Health Plan between the British Columbia Government, Health Canada and the First Nations Leadership Council. This 10 year plan will ensure more coordinated services among the three partners and related governance development to support stronger First Nations leadership in health.

Through well-established networks, Health Canada's regions continued to ensure that the Department was informed of local issues and concerns so that policy and program development considered and reflected the expectations, needs and issues of Canadians in all parts of the country.

Health Canada Communications and Outreach to Canadians

Health Canada communications focused on providing timely, reliable, relevant and culturally appropriate health information to Canadians. More than a million Canadians visited the website monthly for information. Public opinion research was gathered to support development of programs, policies and regulations, and targeted social marketing campaigns encouraged healthy behaviours.

Supporting Health Canada's Programs and Services

The 2006-2007 Report on Plans and Priorities (RPP) included commitments to corporate services and management practices.

Human Resources

Health Canada has been acknowledged for its good governance and training structure around Public Service Modernization Act implementation, the Department continued to provide training and improve policies and tools to support the new approaches set out under the Act. Branches identify human resource priorities and strategies based on business objectives, and supported by detailed demographic and environmental scanning information.

Overall, Health Canada received ratings of 'Acceptable' on the work force and workplace elements of the 'People' components of the Management Accountability Framework (MAF) which were largely based on 2005 employee survey results.

Information Technology

As set out in the RPP, The Way Forward initiatives resulted in many changes to IT management in Health Canada. This two-year departmental initiative adopted national standards and integrated, consolidated and rationalized IT resources. Projects included consolidating and reducing the number of servers and reducing IT computing facilities from 50 to four. The majority of projects were completed, with the remainder slated for completion in 2007-2008. We also were engaged in the government-wide IT Shared Services Initiative to improve delivery of internal administrative services, increase operational efficiency and consider transaction-based services that could be delivered by a common service provider. We have already transferred responsibility for some services to Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC).

Promoting Management Accountability and Operational Planning

Health Canada continued strengthening financial management, accountability and control, as well as resource allocation. Under our Financial Management and Control Framework (FMCF) project, we introduced a Budget Management Framework. We also launched the Readiness Assessment and Certification Initiative as part of the Financial Management Renewal Initiative led by the Office of the Comptroller General, which supports achievement of Federal Accountability Act goals. Phase 1 of the Department’s automated Contract Requisition and Reporting System was implemented and is aligned with the government's priority of improving accountability.

Improvements to operational planning were a major element supporting clearer management accountability. Introduced as a pilot in June 2006, the Departmental Operational Planning (DOP) is a FMCF priority. We are moving to a standardized planning framework across the Department that will clearly demonstrate linkages between priorities, planned activities, expected results and proposed resource allocation. These plans highlight risks and include mitigation strategies needed to reflect challenges facing departmental operations

These actions were rooted in departmental analyses of areas for improvement in financial management practices and were reinforced as a result of the recommendations in Chapter 8 of the 2006 Report of the Auditor General -Allocation of Resources to Regulatory Programs as well as the 2006 MAF Assessment. In that assessment, Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) recognized us fo improved management in information technology, citizen-focused services, effective procurement and extra-organizational contributions. TBS commended Health Canada for our role in supporting TBS' priority of streamlining the Government’s Policy Suite.

Risk Management

Health Canada undertook exercises relating to risk management such as the annual combined update of our Corporate Risk Profile and Internal Environmental Scan, the update of the Departmental Multi-Year Risk-Based Audit Plan 2006-2007 to 2008-2009 and the testing of the Departmental Business Continuity Plan in the Event of a Pandemic Influenza Outbreak. Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Strategic Risk Communications Framework established an in-depth training plan to provide in-depth risk communications training. Extensive risk management processes supported The Way Forward and human resource activities described elsewhere in this section.


We processed 2,200 requests under the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act making Health Canada one of the top three departments in terms of requests received and processed. We improved our efficiency in responding to these requests, meeting deadlines in 86 percent of cases by the end of 2006-2007, up from 78 the year before. We were on track to achieve an "ideal compliance" status of 95 by fall 2007.

We increased awareness of Access to Information and Privacy principles by providing a training program that reached 500 Health Canada and Public Health Agency of Canada employees. We also oversaw a Privacy Impact Assessment process, initiating seven Privacy Impact Assessments and three Preliminary Privacy Impact Assessments. These are part of our efforts to ensure that personal information entrusted to the Department is protected. Our newly revised Privacy Impact Assessment Tool Kit was cited by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner as an excellent guide for procedures and practices.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner the training programs will go a long way in ensuring that the Department “becomes a leader in protecting the privacy of Canadians in the delivery of critical health services. Indeed the training program is one of the more comprehensive suites currently available within the federal government, and could very well become a benchmark for future employee privacy training.”

Values and Ethics

The departmental emphasis on values and ethics included raising awareness among employees of ethical issues and engaging them in dialogue about those issues. Other efforts assisted staff in addressing specific concerns and resolving conflicts. More than 2,500 employees participated in activities to educate, promote or foster ethics and informal conflict management in the workplace. In addition, over 400 employees used Internal Ombudsman services which helped to build a positive, open and transparent working environment.

The Health Canada Sustainable Development Strategy

Sustainable development is implicit in Health Canada's plans and priorities. Health Canada's Sustainable Development Strategy III (SDS III 2004-2007): Becoming the Change We Wish to See is described in detail in Table 14.

We also carried out planning to create SDS IV, which will build on lessons learned as well as new directions in government-wide efforts. Sustainable development training and implementing policy and planning tools will raise awareness and improve integration of social, economic and environmental considerations in the work the Department performs.

Advancing the Science Agenda

The Office of the Chief Scientist (OCS) was created in 2001 to strengthen our ability to perform and use science. Led by the Chief Scientist, the OCS provides leadership for and promotes awareness of Health Canada's science and research and encourages and supports the science community within and outside Health Canada. This helps to ensure that the Department has the scientific information needed to make health-related decisions. The OCS undertakes activities in three key areas:

Science advice - Promoting the effective use of science in policy making: assisting the Department in employing quality science advice in its policy and regulatory decisions;

Science management - Enhancing science capacity and quality: Encouraging due diligence and ensuring Health Canada has the science capacity it needs to meet current and emerging challenges; and

Science promotion - Raising awareness and understanding of science conducted at Health Canada: Improving stakeholder and public understanding of departmental science and its contribution to the health and safety of Canadians.

Science Advice

The OCS is responsible for the provision of science advice to senior departmental officials. It continued its role as secretariat to the Science Advisory Board (SAB). The SAB provides the Minister of Health with independent, expert advice on the science performed and used by Health Canada. This advice was considered in developmentof a departmental science and technology (S&T) strategy, integrated approaches to health and the environment, pharmacosurveillance and the implications of a federal S&T Strategy on the Health Portfolio.

As a leading science-based department, Health Canada must ensure that its research is conducted in a responsible manner. Health Canada's Research Ethics Board (REB), an independent body of experts, ensures that departmental research involving humans meets the highest ethical standards. OCS also provides secretariat support to the REB, which reviewed 132 research protocols in 2006-2007. Approximately 45 percent of these protocols came from the Public Health Agency of Canada and the others were submitted by Health Canada researchers.

The OCS worked with stakeholders in the research community to establish the Canadian Research Integrity Committee (CRIC). The OCS supported the CRIC in hosting a national workshop in January 2007 to discuss research integrity and the potential for a national approach.

Science Management

Sound science management requires good sharing of information and coordination of efforts between Health Canada branches. A key mechanism is the Departmental Executive Committee's Subcommittee on Science, which the Chief Scientist chairs and has ADM-level membership from all branches.

The OCS initiated planning for the S&T Strategy, referred to above, which will be developed in 2007-2008. The Strategy will seek to strengthen management of science issues across the department and in alignment with government-wide science directions.

Fostering strategic partnerships and linkages with external partners/stakeholders is critical to accessing the science and augmenting the science capacity our Department needs to implement its mandate. The OCS worked with PHAC and Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) to identify opportunities for increased collaboration and information sharing. The OCS also supported development of an integrated list of health services and policy research priorities. In addition, the OCS provided advice and guidelines for departmental researchers and scientists on collaborative arrangements with external stakeholders.

With OCS coordination, Health Canada participated in development of the new federal S&T Strategy. Other interdepartmental initiatives dealt with recruitment and development of scientific personnel. These horizontal science initiatives improve understanding within the federal community of the importance of the regulatory science that is central to Health Canada efforts to maintain and improve the health of Canadians.

The OCS coordinated Health Canada's activities with respect to the OECD Principles of Good Laboratory Practice (GLP), which promote test data of comparable quality to enable mutual acceptance of data for regulatory purposes among different countries. To complement the existing GLP programs for pesticides and industrial chemicals and comply with Canada's OECD obligations, the OCS oversaw GLP implementation approaches for health products and food additives.

In order to strengthen the Department’s research capacity, six additional postdoctoral fellowships were offered and managed by OCS. In October 2006, OCS assumed management of the NSERC Visiting Fellowship Program for the Department with 24 Fellows. These programs bring new ideas and cutting-edge science into the Department in the person of the Fellows, who gain insight into the needs and operations of Health Canada. These programs also identify potential employees.

The Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer Office assisted 25 scientists with intellectual property issues. A one-day workshop on Intellectual Property was held for departmental scientists and managers. A web-based system called “Flintbox” to market patented inventions was implemented. An award for departmental inventors was also initiated.

Science Promotion

The OCS organized the annual Health Canada Science Forum held in Ottawa in October 2006 around the theme: “Keeping our "I"s on the Future: Innovation, Integration, Information and International”. This event helped raise awareness of the excellent research performed in the department and its contribution to policy and regulatory decision making. The Forum also facilitated linkages and information sharing between Health Canada researchers and decision makers and counterparts from across Canada.