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Health Canada's Regional Operations - An Overview

Health Canada provides programs and services to Canadians in every province and territory in the country. Over one-third of Health Canada's employees work in communities outside the National Capital Region.

This cross-country presence allows Health Canada to deliver national services in a way that responds to regional issues and priorities; to develop relationships, partnerships and local knowledge that contribute to both the design and the delivery of effective programs and policies; and to build on opportunities for local collaboration with other governments, partners and stakeholders.

In 2008-09, Health Canada's regional operations will help the department realize these benefits through ongoing collaborative and consultative work, as well as by delivering on the Department's mandate through regional projects and initiatives.

Regionally-Responsive Service Delivery

Health Canada's regional staff will continue to deliver programs and services that respond to the needs of people and communities across Canada.

They will conduct inspection and surveillance activities related to consumer products, controlled drugs and substances, pesticides, and health products , building on local knowledge of manufacturing, importing and retail activities in each region.

Health Canada staff will conduct locally-based risk assessments and evaluations and provide health advice to federal employees, provinces and municipalities related to chemical contaminants and exposure levels, drinking water standards and work environments.

They will work with First Nations and Inuit communities to provide community-based health promotion and disease prevention programs and Home and Community Care Programs, and to help these communities develop emergency preparedness plans suited to their unique needs.

The ACCES Project in Quebec Region is an example of an initiative that will deliver Health Canada's services to First Nations in a way that responds to client needs and issues. The project will designate an officer to serve as a "single window" for each community to access Health Canada. It will help communities improve their capacity to plan and implement health programs and will support improved management and accountability.

Regions will also continue to implement projects using the Aboriginal Health Transition Fund to improve the integration of provincial/territorial and federal health services, and better meet the needs of First Nations and Inuit communities.

Outreach and Information

Through outreach and collaboration with governments, clients and partners in the regions, Health Canada's regional staff makes a critical contribution to the Department's knowledge base, as well as building awareness among clients in the region and providing opportunities for local stakeholder input.

The regions will continue to fund disease surveillance for First Nations and Inuit communities as well as provide intelligence on local health policy and health systems issues to support departmental policy and program development.

They will carry out consultations and share knowledge and intelligence, both to provide information to stakeholders, and to gather and assess regional views and interests in order to help shape national policies and regulations.

In the Atlantic Region, for example, Health Canada will work with a policy network of Health Portfolio partners to coordinate a horizontal approach to regional mental health initiatives. In addition, the Atlantic and Alberta regions will work together on a five-year initiative to develop and improve population health surveillance capacity for First Nations.

Collaboration with Regional Partners

In a number of regions, Health Canada is entering into collaborative agreements with partners to ensure that services are integrated to cover a range of clients' needs. The Tripartite First Nations Health Plan in the British Columbia (BC) region is an example of collaboration among the provincial government, Health Canada and First Nations that will move into its implementation phase in 2008.

The tripartite model is being adapted and pursued in other regions. For example, in the Ontario region, a First Nations Public Health Initiative will be established among the provincial Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, the Chiefs of Ontario and Health Canada to promote an integrated approach to public health on reserve.

In the Northern region, similarly, collaboration will help improve accountability and client care. The Northern region will continue to collaborate with the Government of Nunavut, through a co-management forum, to identify priorities for the administration and delivery of the Non-Insured Health Benefits program in Nunavut, and to foster a dialogue on issues of shared concern.

The Product Safety Program is another area in which collaboration with local partners improves effectiveness. Health Canada's officers will continue to work with counterparts from Environment Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency to increase their scope for inspection and detection of unsafe products entering Canada.

The National Anti-Drug Strategy also creates opportunities for partners in the regions to work together to provide an appropriate range of services. In the BC region, Health Canada will work with provincial and municipal partners to develop innovative and integrated programming to address issues of addiction and substance abuse.

Through activities such as these, matching national directions to local conditions and opportunities, Health Canada's regional presence will continue to help the Department to maximize the reach and effectiveness of its programs and resources.

Advancing the Science Agenda

Over the past few years, Health Canada has strengthened its ability to perform and use science. Particular attention has been given to addressing the following priority 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 Department will consider how best to implement the recommendations from a 2007-08 review of the Departmental Science Advisory Board to ensure the continued effectiveness of external science advice to the Minister.

As a 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, will continue to ensure that research involving humans that is funded or conducted by the Department meets the highest ethical standards. Other planned activities include the provision of research ethics training to researchers in the Department and in the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), and the development of a Health Canada science integrity policy to strengthen the oversight and governance of departmental science and research.

Science Management

Mobilizing Science and Technology (S&T) to Canada's Advantage, the Government of Canada's new S&T Strategy (federal Strategy), provides a multi-year framework for action aimed at strengthening the contribution that S&T make to Canada's economic development and social well-being. Health and related life sciences and technologies is identified as a priority sector within the federal Strategy. Health Canada will continue to coordinate departmental and Health Portfolio (Canadian Institutes of Health Research and PHAC) implementation of the health-related policy commitments of the federal Strategy. In addition, Health Canada will continue to work with members of the federal S&T community to develop government-wide S&T initiatives. Health Canada will continue to champion the federal S&T community's pilot Scientists as Leaders Development Program. Health Canada is currently working with other departments to evaluate the pilot and determine the feasibility and value of continuing the Program.

The Department will finalize and implement a Health Canada S&T Strategy. The departmental Strategy, which provides a policy framework for the identification of science priorities over the next five to ten years, will enable the Department to be more responsive to the needs of Canadians. The Department will also develop improved internal approaches for better linking science, science policy and policy development.

Northern S&T has achieved significant prominence in Canada in recent years and the 2007 Speech from the Throne further strengthened the Government of Canada's commitment to this issue. Health Canada will develop a departmental plan for addressing Northern S&T issues and will identify opportunities to participate in Government of Canada activities in this area.

The Department will continue to pursue strategic partnerships and linkages with external partners/stakeholders to access the science and augment the science capacity needed to fulfill the Department's regulatory and policy responsibilities.

Health Canada will continue its efforts to support the recruitment, retention, development, and promotion of scientists. The Department will continue to enhance its Post-Doctoral Fellowship Program, as well as departmental participation in the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council's Visiting Fellowships Program, to ensure they remain responsive to departmental needs.

Science Promotion

Health Canada will continue its efforts to raise awareness and understanding of the science and research it conducts and uses, including through frequent updates to relevant pages on the departmental Internet site. The Department will host its annual Science Forum to showcase the work of its scientists and researchers and discuss the cutting-edge science that informs policy and regulatory decision making. The Forum will also facilitate linkages and information sharing between departmental researchers and decision makers and counterparts from across Canada.