IPPH Scientific Director: Dr. Nancy Edwards

I will complete my term as Scientific Director for the Institute of Population and Public Health (IPPH) on July 31st, 2016. It has been an exciting and stimulating journey and I have had the privilege of watching the Institute take shape and mature during my earlier roles on the Institute’s Advisory Board and CIHR Governing Council and, more recently, as Scientific Director. My position as Scientific Director has been a career highlight for me and I have grown both personally and as a scientist since assuming this role in July 2008. It has been particularly rewarding to work closely with all CIHR Scientific Directors on transformative strategic initiatives; to consult with and learn from top-notch scientists in the field, both in Canada and internationally; and to collaborate with committed partners who have helped shape our many initiatives.

I am proud of our Institute’s many accomplishments. Our multi-year investment in health equity programmatic research kick-started a major thrust of our Strategic Plan. Reflecting the pillar role of our Institute, we have integrated population health principles and approaches in a substantial number of initiatives at CIHR. Signature Initiatives we have co-designed and co-led all have a strong and substantial population health core. The Community Based Primary Health Care Signature Initiative tackles conditions of vulnerability that contribute to inequities in the distribution of chronic disease among Canadians. The SPOR Primary and Integrated Health Care Innovations Network, which is linked to the Community Based Primary Health Care Initiative, addresses underlying determinants of health that must be tackled as part of the solution to reduce high health system user costs. Pathways to Health Equity for Aboriginal Peoples embraces principles of genuine community engagement, addresses health inequities and aims to scale up population health interventions. Intersectoral action is featured in the Environments and Health Initiative, both as an object of the research and as an approach needed to tackle critical nexus areas of environmental concern to many Canadians. As one of our primary strategic directions, we have fostered population health interventions not only through the development of IPPH funding initiatives with this primary orientation but also by leading and guiding the integration of health equity, implementation and scaling up principles and components within several initiatives. Among these are the Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases, Innovating for Maternal and Child Health in Africa and the HIV/AIDS Research Initiative. Features of our applied public health chair program, co-funded with the Public Health Agency of Canada, have been replicated by other CIHR Institutes. We have developed evaluation approaches and indicators, as well as peer review criteria tailored to CIHR’s population health investments; and worked with an increasingly diverse group of knowledge users and partners in health and other sectors.

I want to thank our Institute’s extremely capable and dedicated team and the many CIHR staff who have been pivotal to our successes. In particular, I congratulate our outstanding Institute host staff whose talent and diligence in advancing our strategic research, knowledge translation and evaluation efforts has led to new opportunities for collaboration, and substantially extended our active networks internationally. A huge thank you is also due to our wise and enthusiastic Institute Advisory Board members, who have contributed important ideas, strategic guidance, inspiration and support. With the forthcoming transition to CIHR’s new advisory boards, I am confident that all Institutes will gain important insights from the new members whose expertise lies in the field of public and population health.

There are still some months remaining in my term. Our team looks forward to consolidating our efforts and investments and disseminating our Institute’s refreshed strategic plan. We are especially enthusiastic about opportunities to interact with researchers and decision-making partners through a number of forthcoming annual and inaugural meetings and our first ever international summit “Sparking Population Health Solutions: Research for a Healthier Future” in April, 2016.

Junior and senior Canadian scientists in the field of population and public health already have many accomplishments to be proud of, but I know there is still much to come. Interdisciplinary capacity in this field has grown remarkably in this country over the past ten years. The increasingly robust evidence base for equitable population health programs, policies and resource distribution approaches will most certainly have a direct impact on the health of Canadians and the global community.


Nancy Edwards, RN, PhD, FCAHS
Scientific Director, Institute of Population and Public Health

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