Funding health research
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The role of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, when it comes to funding health research in Canada, is explored here, including a look at the work of the Human Development, Child and Youth Health division within that

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is the federal funding agency for health research in Canada. It is made up of 13 Institutes and as such, collaborates with researchers and partners to support the innovations and discoveries that improve health and strengthen the country’s healthcare system.1

We know that the CIHR invests approximately $1 billion every year in support of health research. This funding supports excellence across all four pillars of health research: clinical, biomedical, health systems services plus population health. Certainly, each of the 13 Institutes is headed up by a Scientific Director.2

The CIHR mandate for research

As the CIHR Act from 2000 states, their mandate is very clear. Certainly, the CIHR aims to: “excel, according to internationally accepted standards of scientific excellence, in the creation of new knowledge and its translation into improved health for Canadians, more effective health services and products and a strengthened Canadian healthcare system.”

This can be achieved in several ways, including the following:

  • Showing leadership within the Canadian research community and encouraging collaboration with the provinces, organisations and researchers in or outside the country who are interested in health or health research;
  • Creating a robust research environment for health in the country, based on internationally accepted standards of a peer review process and scientific excellence, to develop, attract and retain excellent researchers and provide them with the chance to contribute to improving the health of people in Canada and beyond;
  • Forging an integrated health research agenda across sectors, disciplines and regions that reflects the emerging health needs of people and the evolving health system of the country. It is important to note here that supporting health policy decision-making is also important;
  • Encouraging integrative, interdisciplinary health research through Health Research Institutes;
  • Addressing emerging health opportunities, threats and challenges and accelerating the discovery of treatments, cures and healthcare improvements to healthcare, as well as wellness and prevention strategies;
  • Providing support for and pursuing opportunities in terms of Canadian scientists taking part in health research partnerships and international collaboration and;
  • Ensuring accountability and transparency to Canadians when it comes to the investment of the Government of Canada in health research.3

Human Development, Child and Youth Health (IHDCYH)

This article will now focus on just one of those 13 Institutes, Human Development, Child and Youth Health (CIHR-IHDCYH), which is headed up by Dr Shoo Lee from the University of Toronto. He is also Paediatrician-in- Chief and Director of the Maternal-Infant Care (MICare) Research Centre at Mount Sinai Hospital and is Senior Clinician Scientist at the Lunenfeld-Tannenbaum Research Institute. Certainly, as the founder and Director of the Canadian Neonatal NetworkTM and the International Neonatal Collaboration, he very much believes in fostering collaborative research and as such, heads up the CIHR Team in the field of maternal-infant care. We read more about his excellent research work on the CIHR website: “His research focuses on improving quality of care, patient outcomes and health care services delivery. He developed the Family Integrated Care (FICare) model and piloted the concept at Mount Sinai Hospital.4

In a message from Dr Shoo Lee for World Prematurity Day and National Child Day in November 2018, he provides a flavour of his thoughts on how the CIHR- funded researchers are making a difference in the lives of Canadian people:

“The CIHR-IHDCYH is devoted to supporting research that gives children the healthiest possible start to life. We are committed to doing so in collaboration with our fellow Institutes and partners in Canada and abroad.”5

CIHR-IHDCYH funds health research to support and develop a well-trained base of investigators with the expertise and skills needed to design and conduct diverse and innovative and research plus knowledge translation targeted at improving health.

Looking ahead, the beginning of 2019 was the time when we entered the last year of Dr Shoo Lee’s second term as Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of the CIHR-IHDCYH. In a written message from Dr Shoo K. Lee in February 2019, we discover that he will complete his term on December 31st, 2019 and his team at Sinai Health System has already begun the transition process. He emphasises that the CIHR-IHDCYH will continue to work with the CIHR staff and partners to deliver on the priorities outlined in the refreshed strategic plan, Healthy Foundations of Life: CIHR- IHDCYH Refreshed Strategic Plan 2018–20206. At the same time, the CIHR-IHDCYH will ensure an orderly and smooth and transition to the next Scientific Director. Dr Shoo K. Lee then provides his reflections on his time in his current position as Scientific Director of the CIHR-IHDCYH.

“I am honoured to have served as Scientific Director of CIHR-IHDCYH for almost eight years. It has been a pleasure for me and my team to collaborate with our community to support research and capacity building in maternal, reproductive, child and youth health. I am confident that our efforts will make a long-term contribution to improving the health of families in Canada.”7

Closing thoughts

A further example of the kind of research that the CIHR-IHDCYH fund concerns that which strengthens Canada’s capacity and knowledge by supporting a new generation of reproductive, maternal, child and youth health researchers. Certainly, this is achieved by providing vital training, mentorship support and early career development to researchers in these fields. We know that the CIHR-IHDCYH embeds capacity development and networks for mentorship and support of trainees into each of the programmes that it funds.8 This and other examples certainly fit in well with the CIHR’s wider aim to support excellence across all areas of health research and that strengthen the Canadian healthcare system and improve the health of the country’s inhabitants.9











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