Working with partners to modernize public health data

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Importance of public health data

COVID-19 and other recent health events have highlighted the importance and challenges of collecting, sharing, accessing and using health data to benefit people in Canada. Public health officials need reliable, timely and relevant health data so they can provide their best advice about public health events and issues.

While we do currently collect and share health data for public health purposes, there are areas for improvement. Persistent data gaps undermine health decision-making at the personal, professional and system-wide levels. They can impair public health responses, reduce health outcomes, and contribute to health inequities.

What has been done so far

In 2020, the Pan-Canadian Expert Advisory Group (EAG) was formed to make recommendations on systemic problems with the collection, sharing and use of health data in Canada. The work of the EAG concluded once the third report was published in May, 2022.

The EAG released 3 reports that:

Building on the advice of the EAG, there was significant collaboration towards a pan-Canadian health data strategy. This work focused on areas where more collaboration is needed, such as:

This work set the stage for a new era of collaboration under the Working Together to Improve Health Care for Canadians plan. This plan was announced on February 7, 2023. Through this plan the Government of Canada is funding nearly $200 billion over 10 years to improve health services in Canada. This includes $25 billion in targeted bilateral funding for provinces and territories for 4 shared health priorities:

Under the Working Together plan, governments commit to improving how health data is collected, shared, used and reported to:

The commitments under the joint federal, provincial and territorial (FPT) Action Plan on Health Data and Digital Health were announced in October 2023:

Taken together, this work builds on collaboration across FPT partners in recent years. It also reflects the advice received from experts and other stakeholders.

Developments and advice from these collective efforts have been incorporated into the:

These tools will guide FPT collective action towards a shared vision for health data in Canada.

Next steps

Together with FPT health data partners, we're continuing to work towards a better-connected health system with standardized health data and digital tools. We're providing national leadership on the collection, assessment, and integration of health data for public health purposes. This work will help the public health system to deliver on the needs and expectations of people across Canada.

A range of activities support these critical areas and priorities, including some activities aimed at modernizing the public health data system. For example:

These collective and complementary efforts across FPT partners will improve the collection, standardization and use of health data while respecting and protecting privacy. These efforts will help public health agencies have the data they need to prepare for and respond to public health events in an increasingly complex world.

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