From the moment you are born, governments and public bodies collect information about you throughout your lifetime – like when you attend school, get a job, visit the doctor, fill a prescription, and more. Researchers can use these data to learn about which health services are working, and which are not, where more services are needed, and how to help people stay healthy.
What are health and “health-related” data?
Health data are information about the health and well-being of populations, or groups of people. These may include information about:
- Accessing health care services (e.g. visiting the Emergency Room, making an appointment with a healthcare professional, filling a prescription)
- Health behaviours (e.g. diet, exercise, smoking, alcohol consumption)
- Sex, geographic area, social services use, education level, income, immigration status and other “social determinants of health” which impact the health and well-being of all Canadians
What is Health Data Research Network Canada?
Health Data Research Network Canada ("HDRN Canada") is a group of provincial, territorial and national data centres that are working together to make it easier for researchers to use health and health-related data from multiple provinces and territories in research studies.
Why is this needed?
Currently, each provincial, territorial, and national data centre has a different process for researchers to request access to data. As a result, Canadian policymakers have limited ability to learn from the experiences in different provinces and territories. We need pan-Canadian data to perform rigorous studies so that we can determine what is working in our health systems, and what needs improvement.
How will HDRN Canada improve my healthcare?
By increasing researchers access to data from multiple provinces and/or territories, HDRN Canada aims to improve the quantity and quality of studies on health-related issues that affect all of us, such as hospital wait times, chronic illnesses, mental health, disease prevention, and more.
HDRN Canada will support research that helps us understand health challenges across Canada, and possible solutions. Through HDRN Canada will have a better ability to know which health care services and programs should be spread so that they can benefit patients in other provinces and territories.
What kinds of projects use data from HDRN Canada organizations?
Through its Data Access Support Hub (DASH), HDRN Canada supports researchers who are looking to conduct studies that involve two or more provinces and/or territories.
For example, Dr. Emily Marshall at Dalhousie University and her co-investigators are studying the effectiveness of wait lists for primary health care. They are looking at the amount of time it takes for people to access a primary health care provider, such as a family doctor, in Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, HDRN Canada has also supported COVID-19 related research in a variety of areas, including emergency medicine, surgery, pediatric diabetes, neonatal care and virtual care.
How can I get involved if I’m not a researcher?
HDRN Canada is committed to deep involvement of patients and members of the public, through its Public Advisory Committee (PAC) and other mechanisms.