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The Public Health Agency of Canada recognizes that strategic and developmental initiatives are required to support the achievement of its priorities and advance the work of improving public health. Since its inception, the Agency has undertaken a number of activities to fulfill its role as a voice for public health, to define its structural needs and to establish the necessary elements, to build new and expand relationships, and to explore new avenues for improving the public health system in Canada.
Public health is a responsibility shared across governments and other stakeholders. In order to achieve tangible results, the Agency works closely and cooperatively with all of its partners to provide a cohesive, national approach to public health. The Agency is working to strengthen relations P/T and international authorities, to facilitate working relationships across sectors and to ensure a comprehensive engagement of all stakeholders. Recognizing the critical importance of evidence-based programs and policies, the Agency is working to develop its internal capacity for knowledge generation and translation, as well as mechanisms for information sharing and exchange with external partners.
In light of the continuing poor health status of First Nations, Inuit and Métis relative to the broader Canadian population, and with the understanding that First Nations, Inuit and Métis are distinct and diverse, the Agency continues to take steps towards implementing commitments under its 2007-2012 Strategic Plan and its June 2007 response to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology. With its commitments and the public health needs of Aboriginal Peoples in mind, the Agency will continue to build on existing policy and program initiatives, including its increased strategic policy capacity in this area, and will pursue the following actions over the three-year planning period in order to further strengthen its policy foundation, capacity and focus on First Nations, Inuit and Métis public health:
These actions will serve to further develop a network of relationships, clarify and solidify the Agency’s role in and approach to First Nations, Inuit and Métis public health, and better position the Agency and the Government of Canada to effectively address Aboriginal public health issues and, more broadly, the determinants of Aboriginal Peoples’ health.
Public health is a critical international issue with economic, security and development dimensions. While infectious diseases continue to exact a high human toll in lives lost, particularly among children, chronic and non-communicable diseases now form the majority of the burden of disease and premature deaths in the world, including in a significant number of developing countries. The Agency will continue to use multilateral and regional organizations as well as bilateral relationships to confront these global public health challenges and build upon past successes. During the planning period, the Agency will take a leadership role in supporting international initiatives that build capacity in key areas and influence global policies that are in the interests of public health in Canada.
In 2008-2009, the Agency will further an international health strategy and an organizational approach for managing international activities. In addition to supporting Canada’s domestic public health goals, this investment provides a more solid foundation for strategic international initiatives to strengthen global public health security; to strengthen international efforts to build capacity in public health systems; and to reduce the global burden of disease and global health disparities – three interconnected and mutually supportive objectives. Strengthening international public health infrastructure enhances public health globally and is integral to reducing the global disease burden and improving global public health security. This area is demanding new approaches to ensure that a critical line of defence is maintained to protect Canadians against many current and emerging public health and other health-related threats.
The Agency’s investments in 2008-2009 will expand its capacity to implement its international health strategy and strengthen Canada’s links in the international public health arena. They will enable Canada to meet its international obligations and share more public health expertise with global partners. During the planning period, the Agency will also continue to develop and strengthen relationships with bilateral and multilateral partners and institutions, such as the WHO (a Government of Canada strategy with regard to this relationship is currently being developed), the PAHO, the OECD and the International Union for Health Promotion and Education. The resulting exchanges of information will improve the Agency’s domestic work by allowing the best practices of other countries to be reflected in the development of Agency policies.
Canadians increasingly recognize the linkages between health and the environment. Novel measures to improve air quality in Canada and stricter environmental standards, with appropriate enforcement, have been identified as key government priorities. Changes in climate, air and water quality, wildlife habitats and other aspects of the environment all have an impact on the health of Canadians. The Agency is committed to developing a strong and comprehensive policy on possible public health effects stemming from the physical environment. The Agency is well positioned to work horizontally, with other federal players and partner organizations, to incorporate a public health perspective in the broader health and environment agenda. As a member of the Health Portfolio, the Agency will continue to work closely with Health Canada’s Healthy Environments and Consumer Safety Branch on addressing the links between health and the environment. The Agency will also provide public health expertise to other federal partners such as Environment Canada, Natural Resources Canada, and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.
The 2005 launch of the Pan-Canadian Public Health Network was an important, strategic step in strengthening public health capacity across Canada. In establishing the Network, F/P/T Ministers of Health created a mechanism for multilateral sharing and exchange among F/P/T public health institutions and professionals. This new, more collaborative approach to public health policy and initiatives is critical during public health emergencies, and will also assist Canada in establishing a more efficient approach to addressing serious public health issues.
The Network will continue to focus on joint strategies and action in the following six public health areas: communicable disease control; emergency preparedness and response; public health laboratories; public health surveillance and information; non-communicable disease and injury prevention; and population health promotion.
Over the planning period, the Agency will continue to capitalize on investments made in the Pan-Canadian Public Health Network. Key planned initiatives for the Network over this period include:
The Agency is also exploring opportunities to include expertise in Aboriginal public health in the work of the Network.
The Agency will continue to enhance and augment its policy capacity in order to strengthen its public health leadership and its contribution to the priorities of the Health Portfolio and the health-related priorities of other government departments. By doing so, the Agency will be in a better position to identify, coordinate, and bring forward high-quality strategic proposals and options for the consideration of the Minister of Health and Cabinet, enhance policy synergies, and develop and make use of a variety of levers, partnerships, and innovative delivery mechanisms. The development of policies will better integrate results and value-for-money considerations. During the planning period, steps will be taken to further develop the Agency’s policy capacity within program branches while maintaining and enhancing its core policy functions within the Strategic Policy Directorate.
The Agency launched its first Strategic Plan 2007-2012 on September 13, 2007. This comprehensive plan promises to enhance the management and effective delivery of the Agency’s programs.
The next step is to identify concrete measures that will be taken to deliver on these priorities over the next five years. Managers are being encouraged to hold all-staff retreats to discuss what the Agency needs to do to make the Plan a reality.
As well, to move the five-year strategic plan forward, an annual corporate business planning process aligns the Agency’s human capital with its strategic and business goals. The broad strategic directions and Agency priorities identified in the strategic plan, coupled with the implementation strategy and accountability mechanisms set out in the Corporate Business Plan, will improve performance and organizational success through integrated planning and efficient action.
As part of the due diligence undertaken as its organizational structure is evolving, the Agency is developing a corporate risk profile. This involves taking stock of the operating environment and the organization’s capacity to deal with key high-level risks linked to the achievement of corporate objectives. During a series of workshops held early in 2006, risks that could prevent the Agency from meeting its objectives were identified and assessed with a risk-assessment tool that has both qualitative and quantitative elements. The resulting risk profile will inform senior officials on the prevailing departmental perspective on risks inherent to the Agency’s mandate and risks emerging from the changing operating environment, and how these risks are to be mitigated, managed and communicated.
This is the first step in incorporating an integrated risk-management framework into the Agency’s daily operational practices. The adoption of such a framework supports the federal agenda of modernizing management practices and supporting innovation through more responsible risk-taking.
The Agency launched its Strategic Risk Communications Framework in March 2007, and training and implementation are under way. Strategic risk management and communications provides support for informed decision-making and communications that helps stakeholders, and ultimately all Canadians, make well-informed decisions on key public health issues, and foster the confidence of Canadians in the Agency by serving as a foundation for integrated risk management in public health.
The Agency’s Communications Directorate has been trained in the Framework and is working with program managers and policy makers to implement it as a component of risk management on a variety of issues. Multi-disciplinary teams from across the Agency and the health portfolio have been established and the Framework is being used by those teams to guide a risk management and communications approach to key files. Training has been expanded to include other groups at the Agency, such as the Office of Public Health Practice, and groups at Health Canada. In addition, the Agency is investigating how to facilitate a wider roll-out of training to other departments to assist them in risk management.
The Public Health Agency of Canada’s Business Continuity Planning (BCP) program allows critical services or products to be continually delivered to clients regardless of any major disruption of normal activities (e.g. due to a disaster or major outbreak of disease), instead of being focused on resuming business after critical operations have ceased or recovering after a disaster. A critical service is one whose compromise in terms of availability or integrity would result in a high degree of injury to health, safety, security or economic well being of Canadians or to the efficient functioning of the Government of Canada. The Agency is committed to having a solid BCP program that responds to all hazards.
The BCP includes as an annex, a BCP in the event of an Influenza Pandemic which outlines the Agency’s response in the event of such an emergency. It would be used to determine the resources needed to maintain the critical services and approved priorities, as well as to examine the specific skill sets required. This annex also includes a management replacement plan, as well as avenues to obtain resources.
The Agency conducted a test of its BCP in the event of an Influenza Pandemic, March 2007, as a table-top exercise. Recommendations that resulted from the exercise are being implemented over the coming months and another test of the BCP for the Agency is tentatively scheduled for fiscal year 2008-2009.
The Agency’s BCP program is maturing and a greater understanding of the needs of the Agency has been achieved. It is with this understanding that a number of changes are anticipated over the next 24 months to develop a comprehensive set of plans that match the strategic directions of the Agency.
A strong regional presence ensures that the Agency can provide leadership and promote coordinated action on population and public health across the country and achieve its strategic objectives and priorities. Agency Regional Offices connect and support stakeholders, including those outside the health sector, to take action on national priorities, gather public health information and build on resources at the regional, provincial and district levels.
The Agency will continue to expand the role and effectiveness of its regional operations, promoting better alignment and coherence between regional and national levels with respect to structure, governance, priorities and accountability. Agency Regional Offices will also continue to provide information and strategic advice from regional perspectives to influence and participate in decision-making, innovate and respond to emerging health issues and opportunities in the regions and facilitate action across the country to strengthen the public health system.
Grants and Contributions (Gs and Cs) are a mechanism within programs that assist the Agency in fulfilling its mandate and public policy objectives by entering into funding relationships with public, private, volunteer and not-for-profit organizations that are working to promote and protect the health of Canadians. These include initiatives that deliver health promotion and disease prevention programs, undertake research, public policy development, surveillance, knowledge synthesis and exchange initiatives, strengthen public health capacity and develop strategies and networks to build healthy communities and respond to emerging public health issues.
The Program Management Committee (PMC), a permanent senior management committee established in 2006, is mandated by the CPHO to provide direction and oversight of the Agency’s programs and related Gs and Cs activities. This Committee is responsible for ensuring that Agency programs are closely aligned with the Agency’s public health policy objectives, enhance Agency capabilities and accountability and are managed with care to achieve results for Canadians.
Over the next year, the PMC will work with Agency programs and initiatives to implement recommendations of Gs and Cs reviews, including strengthening the management, oversight and effective delivery of Gs and Cs funds.
The Agency continues to develop the corporate infrastructure to deliver and support its day to day business. On April 1, 2007, the newly created Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Division assumed responsibility for the ATIP function. During this period, to improve the Agency’s ability to respond to ATIP requests, the Division is undertaking staffing, developing ATIP policy, and launching an Agency-wide ATIP training and awareness program.
In May 2007, as part of the strategy to implement the Treasury Board (TB) Policy on Internal Audit, the CPHO and the Agency’s Executive Committee approved the revised Risk-Based Audit Plan (2007-2008 to 2009-2010). The audit plan describes the audit projects that will be undertaken by the Audit Services Division. The audit reports will be made available to the public on the Agency’s web site. Observations and information regarding the audits will be included in the Agency’s future Departmental Performance Reports (DPR) and Reports on Plans and Priorities (RPP).
The Chief Audit Executive established policies and procedures to guide the internal audit function. In October 2007, as required by the TB Policy on Internal Audit Directive on Departmental Audit Committees, the Agency and TBS appointed its external members for the newly established Audit Committee. The audit committee met for the first time in November 2007 and will meet four times a year. The audit committee is overseeing the conduct of internal audits and is providing the CPHO with the assurance on the adequacy of internal controls, particularly by assessing controls over financial management and financial reporting and by assessing the delivery of programs and activities with due regard to economy, efficiency and effectiveness.
The Centre for Excellence in Evaluation and Program Design (CEEPD) provides corporate leadership, independent advice and guidance, and promotes effective, high-quality and consistent performance monitoring, measurement and evaluation practices across Agency programs, policies and initiatives.
In 2007, the CEEPD developed the first five-year (2007-2012) risk-based evaluation plan for the Agency, which was approved by the Agency’s Evaluation Advisory Committee and the CPHO. The evaluation plan will be updated annually to reflect changes in Agency priorities and new evaluation work scheduled, and the evaluation reports will be made available to the public through the Agency’s web site. Observations and information regarding the evaluations are included in the Agency’s DPRs and RPPs.
In 2008-2009, the CEEPD will be focussing its efforts on developing and implementing an Agency Evaluation Policy, and addressing the requirements in the new TBS Evaluation Policy, including the requirement to evaluate all grants and contributions programs on a five-year cycle. The CEEPD is also seeking to establish an Agency community of practice for evaluators and those interested in evaluation/knowledge development and exchange, to regularly engage in opportunities to share, learn and improve their own professional and organizational performance.
A government-wide process to facilitate the full implementation of the Government of Canada’s Management, Resources and Results Structure Policy began in 2006-2007 and continued during 2007-2008. The Agency made modifications to its SO and its PAA, and worked on describing its governance structures and developing its first official performance measurement framework.
During 2008-2009, the Agency will develop implementation strategies and quality assurance processes, particularly for its performance measurement framework with a view to strengthening transparency and accountability within the Agency and in reporting to Parliament and the public.
The Agency is continually involved in an evolving framework of partnerships and collaborations at many levels. Our range of partners includes other federal departments and agencies, P/T governments, stakeholders, as well as international organizations. As indicated in the Agency’s Strategic Plan, the Agency is striving toward a more inclusive and comprehensive approach to engaging stakeholders as full partners in shaping and delivering results. The Agency will launch a broader strategic approach to stakeholder relations management. This approach will involve strengthening the Agency’s relationships with its partners, resulting in better engagement in coordinated efforts to advance shared public health objectives on common priorities.