Government & Policy
$100 million public health surveillance
MONTREAL – Canada Health Infoway has announced the approval of an
investment strategy providing a total of $100 million for the
enhancement of pan-Canadian public health surveillance.
The aim is to help public health professionals better detect and respond
to outbreaks of communicable diseases, such as severe acute respiratory
“Communicable disease surveillance is a priority of critical importance
for the safety of all Canadians,” said Dr. David Butler-Jones, Canada’s
Chief Public Health Officer. “I am very pleased that Canada Health
Infoway is proceeding to invest the funds provided by the federal
government to enhance public health surveillance in Canada. This
investment will help improve the capacity of public health professionals
to respond to public health threats and better prepare for the future.”
The federal government asked Infoway to take on the task of facilitating
development of surveillance solutions in partnership with the provinces
and territories. This was due to public concern about the ability of
public health authorities to deal with emerging communicable disease
threats, such as the recent SARS outbreak.
The Public Health Surveillance Strategy will focus on the management of
communicable diseases, major outbreaks and immunization programs,
enhance capacity to provide health alerts and ensure effective and
efficient data and reports are produced. Common or “interoperable”
technology solutions will be adopted to facilitate data sharing while
respecting federal, provincial and territorial privacy legislation.
Alvarez (pictured at left), Infoway’s
President and CEO, said, “Infoway will be working with its partners in
the provinces and territories to evolve Public Health Surveillance
Solutions that will provide valuable assistance to healthcare
One of the first steps taken to carry out Infoway’s Public Health
mandate was the formation of the Pan-Canadian Public Health Communicable
Disease Surveillance and Management Steering Committee. This committee
includes both senior public health decision-makers and Chief Information
Officers from all federal, provincial and territorial Ministries of
Health, as well as certain major national stakeholder organizations.
The Steering Committee and its various working groups will play a key
role in ensuring that public health stakeholders’ interests are fully
reflected in the pan-Canadian surveillance solution produced by the
program, and how it is implemented in the provinces and territories.
Infoway is currently working with the federal, provincial and
territorial governments to implement electronic healthcare systems that
will result in the establishment of a pan-Canadian electronic health
record for all Canadians.
Integrating the Public Health Surveillance Solution with the electronic
health record will provide it with access to valuable data, such as
laboratory results and demographic information, which can help track
outbreaks and provide clues to controlling them.
To achieve this integration, Infoway will work collaboratively with the
provinces and territories to develop standards and technical
specifications for linking the Public Health Surveillance Solutions and
the electronic health record.
The Public Health Surveillance investment strategy is based on studies
done to assess current public health surveillance needs. As a first step
in implementing this investment strategy, Infoway will continue working
with the British Columbia Ministry of Health Services to produce the
following results by April 2005:
• A comprehensive analysis of the functional and technical requirements
related to each module of the new Public Health Surveillance Solutions;
• An analysis of the Integrated Public Health Information System (i-PHIS)
maintained by the Public Health Agency of Canada to determine which of
its modules can be adapted to the new public health surveillance
• A specification of which required modules of the solution would be
custom developed, based on commercially available software products and
existing public sector systems.
Following analysis of results, more detailed design and integration work
and implementation planning of the solution in individual Canadian
provinces and territories is scheduled to begin during the 2005-06fiscal
Canada Health Infoway’s mission is to accelerate the development of
compatible electronic health information systems across Canada. These
systems provide healthcare professionals with rapid access to complete
and accurate patient information, enabling better decisions about
treatment and diagnosis.
Infoway expects to have $260 million committed to approximately 100
projects in every Canadian province and territory by the end of March