Canada Allots $81 M to Increase Access to Health Research Data

Canada took a step forward with $81 million initiative to increase access to health data research.

Challenges like the current opioid crisis gripping Canada have sparked the Health Ministry to announce the initiative, which makes it easier for researchers to access and analyze health research data.

Dr. Kim McGrail, a professor at the UBC School of Population and Public Health, will lead the new data platform, alongside a team made up of representatives from across Canada.

“This is a game changer for Canada,” says McGrail, who is also the Scientific Directory for SPOR Canada Data Platform.
“Our pan-Canadian team has been working for almost five years to create a vision and we are thrilled that CIHR (Canadian Institute of Health Research) and our partners are providing funding to make that vision a reality.

Data are as fundamental to research and improvement as the internet is to communications. Analyzing data from across the country can lead to insights that would be impossible if limited to a single province. A streamlined, simplified process for requesting comparable data will create new opportunities for researchers across the country.”

The data helps us to understand the nature and underlying causes of a problem like the opioid crisis and evaluate the effectiveness of attempts to intervene and solve it.

Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health, announced the $81M initiative while meeting with researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) last week.

The Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR) Canadian Data Platform is a seven-year, $81.35M investment with contributions from several partners.  This groundbreaking initiative is a single portal through which researchers will be able to request access to a multitude of administrative, clinical, and social data from various sources from across the country.

In a country as big and diverse as Canada, where health problems do not respect provincial and territorial boundaries, solutions require collective action that crosses jurisdictions.

Up to now, accessing and using multi-jurisdictional data has been a challenge because of differences in the requirements for requesting and accessing data and in the data themselves. The new data platform will help foster an environment where researchers can address questions that cross boundaries and more easily build on the work of their peers, leading to the kinds of advances that improve health and strengthen the health care system.

“Patients and other citizens will not only benefit from the SPOR Canadian Data Platform but help decide what data should be included and how the data should be connected and used,” says Frank Gavin, Lead of the Patient and Public Working Group for the SPOR Canada Data Platform .
“We expect the Platform to make improving health and health care easier and faster and look forward to lending a hand to its development and applications.”

Having access to good quality health information is a critical component to determine the right treatment, whether that’s for alternative health care or decisions your doctor wants you to make.

The Canadian Data Platform is made possible through the Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR), a series of funding partnerships between CIHR, provinces and territories, philanthropic organization, academic institutions, and health charities. SPOR is about providing the evidence needed to inform the development of health policies and improve the health care system for patients.

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