Call for Catalytic Questions
There is an urgency to increase the relevance and timeliness of research to address society’s biggest problems. Researchers and funders need to respond to these challenges. We are issuing a Call for Catalytic Questions to accelerate a forward-looking research agenda for where the field of population health intervention research (PHIR) needs to go next. The questions will be discussed and finalized at the Summit on Thursday, April 28 to ignite the pursuit of future research and inform future research funding priorities in Canada or internationally. The final questions are expected to be included in dissemination products arising from the summit that will be distributed to researchers, decision-makers and research funders.
Deadline for questions is Monday, February 29, 2016.
What is a Catalytic Question?
Catalytic questions are designed to disrupt or transform current thinking and spur innovation. By using questions as catalysts to stimulate solutions, questions should be forward-looking, challenge and creatively address widely held assumptions. Such questions should not be about more of the same; questions should go beyond the status quo and ultimately lead to better solutions to solve problems.
When suggesting a Catalytic Question, consider:
- Actions that can be taken or discontinued to improve health and health equity at a population level;
- Potential impact on the health of Canadians and/or global populations;
- Full scope of population health intervention research – from how we frame problems and solutions to the theories and methods we use to study them; and/or,
- Potential implications for future research, policy and/or practice efforts.
Whether you are a researcher, policy maker, practitioner or citizen from Canada or beyond, we invite you to submit your top priority questions. Questions can address one or more of the six summit themes or other knowledge gap.
Policy makers are concerned about the renewal and sustainability of our health care system. Population health research can be a source of evidence on cost-effective, innovative and equitable solutions to prevent disease and disability. But we need to compare the benefits and costs of upstream versus downstream interventions in order to answer the question: Is an ounce of prevention really worth a pound of cure?
Moving beyond health sector solutions
How can we optimally align and combine interventions from public health and other sectors to improve population health, and what role should the health sector play in intersectoral action?
We are facing a new era of health challenges that can’t be solved one person, one sector, or one intervention at a time. A growing burden of chronic disease and environmental degradation are examples of problems that require concerted action beyond the health sector (e.g. transportation policies to reduce injuries and increase physical activity; quality early childhood education for healthy development). We need to move beyond the rhetoric of calls for intersectoral action to answer the question: How can we optimally align and combine interventions from public health and other sectors to improve population health, and what role should the health sector play in intersectoral action?
Beyond “nannies” and “nudging”
How can the case be made that improving population health requires action ’upstream’?
Societies continue to invest heavily in ‘magic bullet’ and individually-oriented solutions to complex public health problems. Some jurisdictions hesitate to make structural changes to move policies further upstream in favour of behavioural interventions, and though governments have a role to play in improving population health, major action often results in “nanny state” accusations. Alternative approaches have been to ‘nudge’ the population toward healthier decisions. Further, networks of actors and coalitions operating at multiple levels and/or across jurisdictions can play a role in shaping these policy agendas, their actions can be enabled through governance processes and structures. We need evidence to answer the question: How can the case be made that improving population health requires action ’upstream’?
The good, the bad, and the ugly
What are the unintended consequences of population health policies and programs?
Research from many countries highlights persistent yet avoidable inequities in health and challenges with access to resources for health. As we drive for more innovative, equitable, ethical, and impactful population health solutions, we need to consider what populations are being included and excluded, and who will benefit and who will be harmed. We need to learn from past successes and failures to answer the question: What are the unintended consequences of population health policies and programs?
What features of context(s) are most important to understand and measure – why and how?
Tackling the deep roots of inequities requires new approaches to examine how historical, contemporary and dynamic contexts intersect with population health interventions to affect health and health equity. Rather than “controlling” or “adjusting” for features of context, we need to generate evidence to answer the question: What features of context(s) are most important to understand and measure – why and how?
Scale up and scale back
Why and how are some public health policies and programs scaled up and others are not?
There are examples of innovative and effective population health interventions that have not been scaled up (sometimes in favour of less effective policies and programs) – and others, such as water fluoridation, that are being scaled back. While Canada and other jurisdictions have implemented population health interventions at scale, less may be known about equity, cost, or sustainability of scale-up. We need evidence to answer the question: Why and how are some public health policies and programs are scaled up and others are not?
Submitted Catalytic Questions are being reviewed by CIHR-Institute of Population and Public Health Senior Staff and a committee of international experts to generate a list of final questions. The questions will be open for voting soon and the top ranked questions will be refined on Thursday, April 28 with Summit participants. Through a facilitated discussion, participants will determine the final Catalytic Questions that will inform the future of population health intervention research.
The final questions are expected to be included in dissemination products arising from the summit that will be distributed to researchers, decision-makers and research funders. The final questions will also be profiled in sessions at upcoming public and population health conferences including the International Union for Health Promotion and Education and the CPHA annual conference, Public Health 2016.