Global health research

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The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) invests in research that aims to improve the health of people in Canada and around the world. Global health spans the mandates  of all CIHR's Institutes. The Scientific Lead for Global Health at CIHR is Dr. Steven Hoffman, who is also the Scientific Director for the Institute of Population and Public Health.

What is global health research?

Global health research focuses in particular on the health of people living in low- and middle-income countries and also on understanding systematic factors that shape health and are inherently global. CIHR considers global health research to include the following areas:

  • Globalization: explaining patterns of health, health equity, and well-being within a global context or as shaped by global economic, social, cultural, environmental, and political factors.
  • Health Equity: improving the health of populations facing conditions of marginalization, such as people living in poverty and  Indigenous Peoples in multiple international settings.
  • Neglected Conditions: tackling the circumstances, conditions and diseases that disproportionately affect disadvantaged populations who are excluded from markets and society, including biomedical research on these diseases and conditions.
  • Transnational Risks: addressing health threats, opportunities, determinants, or solutions that transcend political boundaries.

CIHR and global health research

CIHR's Strategic Plan 2021-2031, A Vision for a Healthier Future, emphasizes the commitment to pursue health equity through research to improve inequitable health outcomes while driving progress on global health research on the world stage.

Because the health of people everywhere also affects the health of Canadians, applications in global health research are eligible for CIHR funding.

CIHR continues to integrate global health research across its programs and initiatives in an effort to grow capacity in this space. From 2000 to 2019, CIHR invested over $450 million in global health research initiatives, which supported more than 1,900 grants.

CIHR funds research with a focus on global health through both priority-driven as well as investigator-initiated grant competitions. Please see International and global health: Frequently asked questions for further information on ways global health and international researchers can engage with CIHR.

Global Health 3.0: CIHR's Framework for Action on Global Health Research outlines how CIHR will strengthen the alignment of global health research and policy domestically and internationally to drive mutual benefits from global research and innovation. The Framework was developed through an extensive consultation process that engaged over 400 researchers and stakeholders to better understand Canada's challenges and opportunities in global health research. Over the next five years, CIHR will work to strengthen the alignment of global health research and policy, grow global health research capacity and excellence, and promote transformative impact in the prevention of non-communicable diseases; sex, gender and health; and health emergencies.

Recent CIHR global health initiatives:

A range of skills and expertise is needed to tackle issues like climate change or infectious diseases that affect the health of Canadians and populations worldwide. For this reason, Canadian researchers are encouraged to work with partners in every country of the world to achieve the greatest health impacts and equity for all.

Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases (GACD)

CIHR has partnered with international health research funders to form the Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases (GACD). GACD develops and facilitates innovative research collaborations between low- and middle-income and high-income countries in the fight against chronic diseases, working with alliance members across the globe.

Learn more about GACD

Innovating for Maternal and Child Health in Africa (IMCHA)

The IMCHA initiative seeks to improve maternal, newborn, and child health outcomes by strengthening health systems, using primary health care as an entry point. This seven-year, $36 million initiative – jointly funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Global Affairs Canada, and Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC) – illustrates how partnerships serve to advance Canadian global health priorities.

Learn more about IMCHA

Global health planning grants

These grants support planning activities that facilitate the development of research partnerships and projects that could subsequently be funded by CIHR or other funders that are relevant to global health research.

Learn more about Global Health planning grants

Health Research Rapid Response

To ensure that Canada is adequately prepared to respond to urgent health research threats in a timely and coordinated manner, CIHR received support for an Emerging Health Threats Research Fund. The fund supports a series of complementary research activities by issuing research grants to Canadian researchers in order to mitigate or prevent the harm posed by potential or emerging health threats.

Learn more about Health Research Rapid Response

Healthy Life Trajectories Initiative (HeLTI)

This initiative seeks to address the prevalence of non-communicable diseases, such as cardiovascular and respiratory disease, diabetes and mental health issues, through a Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD) approach. DOHaD methodologies examine the way environmental factors interact with our genetics during conception, fetal life, infancy and childhood, and how these interactions affect health later in life.

Learn more about Healthy Life Trajectories Initiative

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