Health policy has been particularly challenging through the last two years during our struggles with COVID. While public health recommendations and orders have been dominant in the public discourse, they have generated significant conflict. It has been said that in polarized times the best decisions are often those where neither side is happy with the policy. This may indeed have been part of the motivation of multiple provincial governments, whose reluctance to impose meaningful prevention policies to curtail the spread of the Corona virus, have been widely criticized by epidemiologists and health system leaders. These responses were countered by protests from “freedom” demonstrations and representatives of various commercial enterprises.

As an organization that seeks to engage health services and health policy practitioners, policy makers, and the public whose lives and wellbeing are dependent on these decisions and the services that result from them, CAHSPR can play an important role as we learn and incorporate the lessons from the experiences of last two years. The CAHSPR Board is exploring a variety of opportunities to provide new, more robust ways to engage a wide range of stakeholders during this time of reflection. We need to be bold but realistic, we need to respect the common challenges we all face, such as climate change. To do this effectively we have to find ways to engage decision makers who experience these common challenges, with differing regional applications and priorities.

A fundamental challenge faced by virtually all member associations including CAHSPR is how to engage with our stakeholders in a meaningful way while respecting the environmental impact of large, centralized meetings and that can be achieved within our limited financial resources. At CAHSPR, we embarked on several initiatives to address this; I’d like to share two of these with you today.

The first was just getting off the ground before our attention became focused on the pandemic. Our health care system is decentralized necessitating local, jurisdictional interaction with provincial/territorial policy makers. Our vision was for these local interactions to initially be focused on relationship building. The work of health policy takes place within a political environment that requires trust to be built as a foundation for meaningful discussion. We believe this trust can be best nurtured through local relationships. We will reframe this initiative to best reflect the reality of the post COVID19 environment. Stay tuned for more as this evolves.

The second initiative builds on the CAHSPR theme groups. We see potential in encouraging activities of our current groups throughout the year rather than being focused on the annual meetings alone and in exploring the potential for the formation of new theme groups. We have heard from members wanting to establish new theme groups based on their interest in addressing challenges our health care systems face. Some of these issues have organizations dedicated to addressing them (e.g. climate change) but CAHSPR can still play a meaningful role in bringing these issues to the attention of members and potentially creating partnerships with these groups.

As part of our work to develop a more meaningful member experience in CAHSPR and to strengthen supports for the HSPR community, we have taken steps to broaden the range of partners we work with and to engage with our partners in a more meaningful way throughout the year. We are actively reaching out to organizational stakeholders as well as citizens, patients and caregivers to explore ways to partner that benefit the community and the health system. As part of this effort, CAHSPR has been working alongside the Canadian Health Services and Policy Alliance (CHSPRA), which has, in a relatively short time, made a significant impact on our ecosystem namely through the “Training Modernization Initiative” that has led to the wildly successful Health System Impact Fellowships, and the “Impact Analysis Working Group.” Both organizations are meeting regularly to determine the best path to achieving the most meaningful impact for individuals and organizations in the HSPR community. It is our shared belief that this is best achieved by working together, likely as a single organization. This process is being carefully planned to ensure that we do not lose the value that each organization brings to the table.

As well we have updated our governance structures in a way that deepens the leadership in the CAHSPR Board. We have recently expanded the membership of the Board to reflect more diversity of experiences and interests. We are excited to leverage this renewed Board as we develop new strategies to reflect the changing environment that we find ourselves in in 2022. The full Board biographies can be found at https://cahspr.ca/about/board-of-directors/

I look forward to implementing this vision with our dynamic CAHSPR Board, the various organizations working with Canadian researchers, our stakeholders and each of you in our research community, as well as those the health care system is designed to serve. I am confident that this vision will strengthen the Canadian health services and policy community in 2022 and for the future.

Dr. Alan Katz

Dr. Alan Katz

President, CAHSPR
Director, Manitoba Centre for Health Policy
Professor, Departments of Family Medicine and Community Health Sciences
College of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences
University of Manitoba