Transforming Public Health: IPPH Strategic Plan, 2022-2026

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the field of population and public health in many ways: it has exposed the fragility of our health systems, the need for better integration of public health into health care, the lack of emergency response capabilities, and the unacceptable inequities within and across societies. These long-standing challenges are not new but point to the need for urgent systemic change.

Difficult times call for a period of reflection and growth. Public health – whose success is often invisible – has demonstrated its importance. The value of public health has never been clearer. Understanding that the future depends on strong public health systems, the CIHR Institute of Population & Public Health (IPPH) in Spring 2021 hosted a series of open dialogues on the Future of Canada's Public Health Systems as detailed in our Moving Forward Report (March 2022). This strategic plan is the direct result of these dialogues, along with CIHR's Strategic Plan 2021-2031 (June 2021), the Chief Public Health Officer's A Vision to Transform Canada's Public Health System report (December 2021), and the past five years of work under IPPH's previous The Future is Public Health strategic plan (November 2018).

While The Future is Public Health charted an ambitious course for IPPH, it also became increasingly clear that the present depends on public health too. We are facing simultaneous health, climate, and social emergencies, each calling for systemic changes, bolder preventative measures and more equitable outcomes. Over the past five years IPPH has focused on three priority areas – Healthy Cities, Equitable AI, and Global Health Policy – along with capacity-building across our broad mandate of population and public health. Much of what we have accomplished is detailed in our Institute's Impact Report(June 2022). However, we also recognize there is much more work to do in all of these areas as we work to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and rebuild our public health systems for a more equitable, resilient and sustainable future.

Supporting strong public health systems begins with understanding what makes successful systems in the first place. Each of our priority areas have contributed to solving a public health problem – the Healthy Cities Research Initiative is transforming the health of the 82% of Canadians living in cities; Equitable AI has equipped public health with new methods to advance health equity; and Global Health Policy established scaffolds to better prepare for health emergencies – but more work is needed. In light of new circumstances, IPPH is evolving our three existing priority areas to better support Canadian researchers, knowledge users and decision-makers to address the challenges that we now face. We are also introducing a fourth priority area dedicated to Public Health Systems.

This new priority area will help shape Canada's public health systems by generating evidence on key public health system research priorities, enabling learning public health systems, and strengthening the alignment between community, practice and policy needs and the health research ecosystem. Working with partners, we will aim to support system transformations that are strong and resilient, as well as anti-colonial, anti-racist and anti-ableist.

Detailed in this plan are new and refreshed objectives, actions and intended impacts to support the incredible work of Canada's population and public health researchers and those who use research to inform their programs, policies and decisions.

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