Enhancing Analysis for Evidence-Informed Mental Health Policy

Duration: 12 months. Ideal starting date, April 1st 2015 but can be negotiated.

Organization: Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention Branch/Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention/Surveillance and Epidemiology Division/ Public Health Agency of Canada

Supervisor(s): Dr. Gayatri Jayaraman, Senior Manager
E-mail address : gayatri.jayaraman@phac-aspc.gc.ca


Preferred level: Doctoral or post-doctoral student

Profile/type of expertise: The Agency is in need of a Fellow with subject matter expertise in mental health and in least one of the following: social determinants of health, public health, epidemiology or population health. The Fellow will need to have advanced quantitative skills, with the proven ability to understand and analyse large, population based data sets.

Assignment Summary:

Policy issue: Mental illness and suicide are significant public health issues facing Canadians. One in three Canadians ages 15 and over (about 9.1 million people) meet the criteria for at least one of six selected mental or substance use disorders at some point in their life. Nearly 4,000 Canadians die by suicide each year – an average of 11 suicides a day. Positive mental health is also receiving increasing attention as an important determinant of quality of life and positive functioning. It is different from the absence of mental illness and has been defined by the World Health Organization as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada (the Agency) has been actively working in the area of positive mental health for many years, and the recent Government of Canada attention to the issue through the Budget 2013 has pushed the Agency’s mental health and mental illness work to the forefront.  In addition to enhancing surveillance on positive mental health/mental illness, planning is underway to develop policies to promote positive mental health among all Canadians, and within specific populations, such as vulnerable children and families, as well as surveillance activities.

The Agency’s activities are aligned to support the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s (MHCC) strategic plan for Canada, with a particular emphasis on supporting the plan’s first direction, which is “to promote mental health across the lifespan in homes, schools, workplaces, and prevent mental illness and suicide whenever possible.” One mechanism through which the Agency achieves this is through the Innovation Strategy funding program, which supported projects that foster mental health for children, youth and families. These projects will be summarizing lessons learned for the end of March 2015. The Fellow’s contribution is needed to 1) examine lessons learned from the Innovation Strategy Mental Health Projects; 2) identify and conduct analyses based on questions identified by policy area; and 3) provide evidence to inform proposed program activities for 2016-2017.

Proposed Work Plan

Activity Deliverables Time frame

Orientation to policy context
The Fellow will review critical documents to understand the Federal policy and program landscape in mental health in Canada

Presentation to Surveillance and Epidemiology Division and Science Integration Division


Consultation with policy area, key stakeholders – The Fellow will engage with key stakeholders*, and policy and program leads to identify priority research needs to support evidence-informed policy options on mental health. (*Mental Health Promotion Task Group (MHPTG), Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC))

Consultation plan


Summary report of needs assessment

Summary report


Literature review
The Fellow will review the existing literature related to priority research needs for evidence-informed policy

Evidence brief


Analytical plan
The Fellow will develop an analysis plan to address key evidence needs identified by  key stakeholders  and policy/program leads

Analysis Plan


Implement analytical plan
The Fellow will implement the analysis plan, supported by Agency epidemiologists and scientists, to contribute innovative evidence on mental health to further understanding of appropriate policy responses to advance the health of Canadians.



Draft report



Final report

Technical Report /Peer reviewed publication


Presentation (internal to PHAC – Science Seminar Series, Centre and Branch Management tables, MHCC, MHPTG)

(Presentation to MHPTG would need to align with task group schedule)


Exposure to the public policy-making process:

The Fellow will be consulting regularly with the Mental Health Promotion Team in order to ensure that the project and analysis meets specific evidence needs for policy making. Through the Mental Health Promotion Task Group, the Fellow will be introduced to Federal/Provincial-Territorial collaboration and coordination. The Fellow will provide input into briefings to senior management, using the results of analysis to inform directions for Agency activities in mental health promotion. Finally, the Fellow will also be included in meetings between the Agency and the Mental Health Commission of Canada, as well as other key national mental health stakeholders.

The Fellow will be located in Surveillance and Epidemiology Division (SED), and supervised by Senior Manager, Dr. Gayatri Jayaraman.  The Fellow will be in daily contact with other senior epidemiologists and scientists from Surveillance and Epidemiology Division, Social Determinants and Science Integration Directorate, and senior policy analysts from the Mental Health Promotion Team. The Fellow’s work will be integrated into the workplan of the Behaviour, Environment and Lifestyle Team of Surveillance and Epidemiology Division and will be reflected on shared Branch workplans as well as the Branch Science Plan. The Fellow will provide input into key briefings to senior management, and will be invited to present the findings of his/her work to P3, the Branch senior management committee. Analyses will be presented to MHCC to ensure alignment with their strategic priorities and analyses that meet the need of the Mental Health Promotion Task Group will be presented to this FPT task group, and depending on the issues brought to the Healthy People and Communities Steering Committee (HPCSC) of the Public Health Network, the Fellow may present there as well. Where opportunities present themselves, the Fellow will be engaged in policy development processes by providing strategic evidence-based advice.

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