We are living in unprecedented times; there is no playbook to determine how to respond to current events or to plan for the future. As we respond to the pandemic now and in planning for the short-term future of healthcare in Canada, we need to build on our strengths to ensure the best possible outcomes for the health of Canadians. A thoughtful, collaborative approach to the public health crisis we face is essential both for the successful resolution of the pandemic and to our ability to meet the healthcare needs of Canadians. This is the task researchers, policy makers and clinicians face as we deal with the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

CAHSPR is the space where researchers, policy makers and clinicians can enter into dialogue, share interpretation of the evidence, explore challenges and support our healthcare systems through their most significant challenges. These will stretch our resources, both human and fiscal.

Starting with the evident racism within healthcare, we have serious challenges to address. Our Indigenous populations are looking for a venue to see the inequities they face on a daily basis addressed. The discussion is no longer about the recognition of a problem but about the actions urgently needed to address that problem. CAHSPR needs to work with First Nations, Metis and Inuit leaders to facilitate an action-oriented interaction.

The economic consequences of the pandemic are likely to put significant pressure on healthcare funding. As the largest single public expenditure, healthcare costs are likely to be an early target for government spending cuts as they deal with the pandemic related deficits. Our task at CAHSPR is to host realistic debate about the most appropriate approach to facing the real challenges governments will face. These are crucial decisions that will have consequences for the health of all Canadians. Our CAHSPR members include the economists, policy makers, system thinkers, innovative problem solvers and clinicians with the experience and insights to work together for the best possible outcomes.

While we have no similar experience to fall back on, breaking down the current challenges into their component parts will allow us to use research evidence to address these difficult tasks. The CAHSPR community will need to play a key role in highlighting the established evidence that is relevant, while designing new studies to address the questions that remain. We need to involve all our members in this endeavour; we have a rich history of student mentorship and we can take advantage of this time to provide our student members, the future researchers and health system decision makers, with unique opportunities to interact with research and policy leaders in planning for the future.

It would be a mistake for CAHSPR to ignore other significant issues while we focus on the current crisis. Climate change has not gone away because of the pandemic. The impact of climate change remains the most serious threat to the health of the global population. As a resource rich country, Canada has an ethical responsibility to be actively engaged in addressing this challenge. CAHSPR will need to determine its response to this challenge in the near future.

As an organization, CAHSPR has demonstrated its nimbleness in hosting “Virtually CAHSPR” in May 2020. We will continue to build on this foundation as we respond to these challenges. There are many exciting paths that CAHSPR is exploring to better serve our community. If you are not currently a member, I encourage you to join so you can be part of the evolution of our association.

We can rely on our vibrant theme groups to provide solution focused environments to bring together researchers, policy makers and clinicians with the goal of improving the health of Canadians. We are in the process of expanding these groups to continue to support the initiatives of our members. In addition, we need to explore how to evolve as an organization, finding ways to enhance the collaboration between our multidisciplinary members beyond our annual meetings.

We must also build collaborative relationships with other organizations where we find synergies. Canada has a relatively small health services research community that needs to work together to meet the significant challenges we face. Working with similarly minded Canadian organizations as well as international colleagues will serve to strengthen us all.

Dr. Alan Katz

Dr. Alan Katz

President-Elect, 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