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Section IV: Other Items of Interest

Health Canada's Regional Operations, An Overview

Health Canada's seven regional offices (British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba/Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, Atlantic, and Northern) represent the face of the Department to Canadians through program and service delivery, the provision of information, and as guardians and regulators.

The regions conducted 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. 

Regional policy intelligence and expertise allowed the Department to respond to the diverse needs of Canadians in the areas of First Nations and Inuit health, inspection and surveillance activities, controlled drugs and substances, pesticides and health and food products.

Health Canada's regions collaborated with internal and external partners to undertake activities that support and enable more effective program delivery:

The Atlantic Region collaborated with the Mushuau and Sheshatshui First Nations, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, and the Health and Healing Sub-committee of the Innu Main Table to study the immediate health effects of the move from Davis Inlet to Natuashish and to scan health conditions and concerns for inclusion in Sheshatshiu's community health plan. This led to work plans to support the two Innu communities in developing an Innu-controlled health system.

Following the adoption of a new Canadian guideline for annual average radon concentration, the Quebec Region is implementing an awareness program. Three workshops for the building industry were organized at which 140 professionals were called upon to either assess radon levels or take mitigating measures. A two-day seminar on the management of health and environmental risks related to the population of Quebec's exposure to radon was also offered to over 50 health professionals, providing them with the requisite skills to interact with the public.

Ontario Region supported the Great Lakes Public Health Network (GLPHN), a joint commitment under the Canada-Ontario Agreement Respecting the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem (COA), which facilitates sharing of environmental health science among federal, provincial, and municipal governments to meet the needs of Ontario Public Health Units (PHU) and their Medical Officers of Health.  The Network, managed by the Safe Environments Program, Healthy Environments and Consumer Safety, held four teleconferences to discuss the effects on human health of such environmental factors as climate change, wood smoke, pesticides and radon; two steering committee meetings; and a risk communication workshop for front-line environmental health workers.  The GLPHN is a first-of-its-kind grassroots initiative to support the restoration and protection of the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem.

The Manitoba/Saskatchewan Region initiated collaboration of federal departments in pandemic influenza planning. In this way, the Region advanced the Manitoba Federal Council and Saskatchewan Federal Council's preparedness to better position the Government of Canada to manage cross-cutting issues related to pandemic and emergency management.

To address the health and environmental concerns raised by the rapid growth of the oil sands industry, the Alberta Region brought together regional and national expertise from all Branches of Health Canada to form the Oil Sands Working Group. The Working Group recognized the need for a more cohesive approach across the Health Portfolio and within the federal government at large.  

The British Columbia Region helped facilitate the signing of the British Columbia Tripartite First Nations Health Plan (TFNHP) between Health Canada, the Government of British Columbia and the British Columbia First Nations Leadership Council.  The TFNHP provides a framework to work together to close gaps in health between First Nations people and other British Columbians, and to ensure First Nations are fully involved in decision-making regarding the health of their people.

The Northern Region worked with territorial governments in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories in implementing new funding arrangements for First Nations and Inuit Health programs to reduce the administrative burden and provide maximum flexibility of resources. Through initiatives such as the Aboriginal Health Transition Fund and the Aboriginal Health Human Resources Initiative, the Northern Region provided funding to territorial First Nations and Inuit organizations to support their capacity to participate fully in these initiatives.

Advancing the Science Agenda

Health Canada depends on a strong foundation of science and research to fulfil its regulatory and policy mandates.  The Department spent an estimated $349 million on science and technology (S&T), consisting of $61 million for research and development (R&D) and $288 million on related scientific activities (RSA).

Because of the scope of RSA and R&D responsibilities, the Department depends on scientists in a range of fields, including natural and life sciences and social sciences.  They perform essential functions: conducting leading-edge science and policy research; providing knowledge to Canadians, health care workers and stakeholders to enable them to make sound choices to protect health and the environment; monitoring and researching health threats; and fostering sound decision-making and policy to help reduce health risks.

Health Canada worked to strengthen its science activities in three areas: advice, management and promotion.

Science advice - Promoting the effective use of science in policy-making

Independent science advice is provided through three committees.

The Science Advisory Board (SAB) provides expert, multi-disciplinary and strategic advice to Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) regarding the science performed and used by the two organizations for evidence-based decision-making.

Health Canada's Research Ethics Board (REB) is an independent body of experts that ensures that departmental research involving humans meets the highest ethical standards. The REB met 10 times and reviewed 211 research protocols. 

The Canadian Research Integrity Committee (CRIC) is working to develop a broad Canadian approach to research integrity and misconduct.  Health Canada senior management has approved development of a departmental scientific integrity policy framework.   

Science management - Enhancing science capacity and quality     

Departmental Science Committees contribute to effective management of issues by providing regular opportunities for branches to inform and consult one another and to develop harmonized approaches to key science functions.  Through coordinated consideration of the work of the Independent Panel of Experts on the Transfer of Federal Non-Regulatory Laboratories, Health Canada identified major criteria for alternative management of its laboratory infrastructure.

Health Canada worked with partners and stakeholders on a Departmental Science and Technology (S&T) Strategy to enhance the contribution of science to delivering on the Department's priorities and mandates and to strengthen the links between science and policy. 

Health Canada uses its interdepartmental linkages on horizontal science and technology policy to influence and benefit from government-wide initiatives such as the 2007 S&T Strategy and the Northern Strategy identified in the 2007 Speech from the Throne. Health and related life sciences and technologies are a priority theme in the S&T Strategy.  The Department has made health a focal point in discussions of the Northern Strategy and, with Health Portfolio partners (Canadian Institutes of Health Research and PHAC) has worked to ensure that scientific research, surveillance and analysis play a central role in securing improved health in the North.

Fostering linkages with external partners/stakeholders is critical to accessing science and augmenting the Department's science capacity.  Major federal science and research organizations have expressed interest in more collaboration on strategic research initiatives, foresight, and access to S&T facilities.

Health Canada developed and launched a Policy on the Approval and Management of Adjunct Professorshipsto ensure a consistent approach to the review and approval of all academic affiliations, including adjunct professorships, of its professional employees.  Health Canada also participated in the interdepartmental Scientists as Leaders Program.  These science managers are receiving focused management training and are gaining broad experience to ensure the highest quality scientific support for departmental decision-making.

To strengthen research capacity, 10 additional postdoctoral fellowships were offered under the Postdoctoral Fellowship (PDF) program and the Department continued to manage the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Visiting Fellowship Program. These Fellowship programs bring new ideas and cutting-edge science into the Department and provide Fellows with insight into the needs and operations of Health Canada, as well as identifying potential new employees. 

Health Canada held workshops on intellectual property issues for scientists and managers to increase awareness of the management of inventions and patents in the Department so that the benefits from departmental research accrue to all Canadians.

Science promotion - Raising awareness and understanding of science conducted at Health Canada

The annual Health Canada Science Forum was held in Ottawa in October 2007, centering around the theme,"Integration of Science, Regulation and Policy for Healthier Canadians."  Sub-themes were: 1) Emerging Science and Technologies; 2) Interactions between Health and the Environment; and, 3) Knowledge Transfer and Translation.  This event helped raise awareness of the excellent science and research performed in the Department and facilitated collaboration and information sharing between Health Canada researchers and decision makers and their counterparts across Canada.