Results at a Glance - Evaluation of the Office of International Affairs for the Health Portfolio

Introduction

  • The Office of International Affairs (OIA) for the Health Portfolio conducts a range of activities that can be categorized into three broad groups: global health policy analysis, advice, and support; international relations and engagement; and priority setting and strategic planning.
  • Between April 2012 and March 2018, total expenditures for all OIA activities period were approximately $97M.

What the evaluation found

  • OIA’s mandate is quite broad; however, it reflects the complexity of the work, and many key informants and survey respondents agreed that the mandate was appropriate and clear. 
  • While most key informants had generally positive views of OIA’s products and services, survey respondents’ views were mixed, especially with regards to OIA’s global health policy analysis and advice, and its approach to information sharing and intelligence gathering.
  • Governance mechanisms were found to be in place; however, the Partnership Executive Committee International Affairs Working Committee could have been functioning more effectively. Attendance at this ADM-VP level committee was often delegated to other staff, and it appeared to be more of an information-sharing body than one where strategic discussions took place.
  • By serving both Health Canada and the Public Agency of Canada through the shared service model approach, OIA was seen as providing value to the coordination of international activities for the Health Portfolio.  
  • Generally, OIA’s relationships with the branches are seen as working well. Most key informants stated that roles and responsibilities were well established when the Minister or the deputy heads attended an event; however, they were less clear when the issue was of a more technical nature. In addition, it was not always clear which files OIA should lead, and which ones the program should lead.
  • OIA engages in a wide range of activities, and while it is difficult to determine the impact of all of these activities, there is evidence of impact related to the higher-profile activities (e.g., sitting as a member of the World Health Executive Organization’s Executive Board and the Pan American Health Organization’s Executive Committee). This impact includes supporting the advancement of Canadian policy positions on international issues, and identifying opportunities for Canadian leadership. 
  • Since 2014, OIA has been running a deficit. As its activities have increased, so too has demand for resources. Even though OIA has been able to secure funds on an ad hoc basis through special requests, this is potentially risky and is an approach that may not be successful over the long term.

Recommendations and responses

  1. Clearly articulate roles and responsibilities regarding international files, and communicate those within the Portfolio.

    Response: OIA will strengthen its engagement with Health Portfolio governance committees and develop and promote a more comprehensive suite of communications products to clearly define and articulate OIA and program roles and responsibilities, as well as OIA’s suite of services and products.

  2. Further explore opportunities to improve products and services.

    Response: OIA will continue to identify opportunities for feedback to guide improvement of products and services. In addition, OIA will provide learning opportunities for Health Portfolio counterparts to increase knowledge of international affairs and build capacity in this area to help improve the products developed.

  3. Explore ways to measure the impact of OIA activities.

    Response: OIA will assess the feasibility of measuring the impact of OIA’s activities as a shared service.

About the evaluation

The evaluation assessed the design of OIA and the delivery of its activities as a shared service, focusing on activities conducted from April 2012 to September 2017. Methods used to collect data to address the evaluation questions included a review of the literature, program files and documents, and financial data, as well as a client survey, key informant interviews, and comparative analyses.

January 2019

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