Results at a glance - Evaluation of Health Canada’s Blood Research and Development Program

Program overview

Blood safety was recognized as a major issue in Canada following the contamination of the Canadian blood supply with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and the Hepatitis C virus in the late 1970s throughout the 1980s. In the final report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Blood System in Canada (also called the Krever Inquiry) issued in November 1997, Justice Krever stated that the national blood service should have the facilities and the competence to conduct in-house research and development, as well as to conduct collaborative work between the national blood service and other organizations.

Through Health Canada's (HC) Organs, Tissues and Blood Program, within the Strategic Policy Branch, the Government of Canada supports research that contributes to a safe and effective supply of blood and blood products for Canadians. Specifically, HC funds the Canadian Blood Services (CBS) in support of the Blood Research and Development Program (BR&D) for basic, applied, and clinical research on blood safety and effectiveness. BR&D activities centre on the following: funding priority research and development programs and projects; engaging in knowledge mobilization (translation and exchange) from creator to user; training highly qualified personnel and building a transfusion science and medicine community of experts; and facilitating collaborative working relationships.

Evaluation approach

The evaluation focused primarily on the impact of HC's funding for CBS' BR&D Program in supporting the safety of Canada's blood supply system, and covered activities from 2017-18 to 2021-22.

Evaluation methods

What the evaluation found

The BR&D provides funding that supports researchers conducting important research projects on blood safety and effectiveness. This has led to significant advancements that will contribute to the maintenance of a safe supply of blood and blood products in Canada.

There is evidence that BR&D has supported CBS in training many highly qualified personnel in transfusion science and medicine, funding research to enhance the safety and effectiveness in the blood system, establishing research networks to foster collaboration, and developing and maintaining learning opportunities for blood researchers. CBS and their funded researchers have also focused on identifying emerging issues and on designing their research program to address those most pressing for Canadians. Most notably, there was significant policy and regulatory work undertaken in the past five years that led to lifting the donor deferral for men who have sex with men, and move to a behaviour-based screening questionnaire for all potential donors, which was supported by program research evidence.
Areas of Consideration

No significant areas of concern were identified. Considering the success of the BR&D Program to date, the evaluation did not identify any recommendations. Instead, the evaluation has identified two areas of consideration for continuous improvement of this program.

  1. Canadian Blood Services' BR&D Program should consider broadening knowledge dissemination strategies to help ensure that a range of communication media and methods are used to reach as many researchers and physicians as possible.
  2. Health Canada should consider participating as an "observer" in meetings between the Canadian Blood Services' BR&D Program and the research community in an effort to ensure that information is shared in an efficient manner.

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