Founded in April 2009, the Université de Montréal Public Health Research Institute (IRSPUM) is one of the largest groups of public health researchers working within an academic setting in Canada and in the French-speaking world, bringing together over 200 researchers.
The Institute is both interfaculty and interdisciplinary, and it is developing its scientific programming in close collaboration with its institutional partners, such as the Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ) and the Regional Public Health Agencies.
The IRSPUM’s mission is to produce state-of-the-art knowledge and to increase synergy among researchers in different disciplines, to respond to the major current and future challenges in public health, to develop extensive partnerships with decision-makers and practitioners so as to encourage critical thinking about the practices used and to support innovation in interventions and research. Finally the IRSPUM aims to ensure maximum knowledge transfer and uptake.
The scientific programming at the IRSPUM is structured around five main research areas (RTM), concerned with the improvement of population health and the governance of health systems: Social Determinants of Health; Environments and Health; Health Systems; Global Health; From Knowledge to Action.
RESEARCH AREAS at the IRSPUM
1. Social Determinants of Health: This field of research falls within the emerging new public health paradigm, which is based on a global vision of health determinants and which places a strong emphasis on the social determinants for, and the social inequalities of, health. It focuses on the roles played by social status, culture, living environments and public policies on health and health inequalities, in order to develop effective strategies to modify these determinants and reduce negative impacts on health. The common goal of researchers working in this area is: to gain a better understanding of the complex processes by which the social position of individuals, their living, working and income conditions, as well as public policies, affect the pathways of life and health; to identify levers for action; and to develop effective preventive interventions that impact the individual, collective and structural factors at the source of health status and health inequalities.
2. Environments and Health: This field of research has three axes, and focuses on: epidemiological research into the causes of illnesses; research into biological, chemical and physical stressors that threaten the quality of living environments and the health of populations; the identification and characterization of these stressors; the assessment of exposure, estimation of risk and the development of efficient surveillance systems for prevention and control.
2.1 State of health, surveillance and prevention: This axis is based on knowledge of risks as an engine for public health action. Risk is defined as the likelihood of a health condition occurring (e.g., illness, trauma, death) in a population in accordance with time and space parameters. Research conducted within this axis capitalizes on results from the research conducted within the Human Toxicology and Infectious Zoonotic Agents axes.
2.2 Human Toxicology: The goal of this axis is first to assess and characterize the level of contamination in the environment as well as the population’s exposure to various contaminants and second, to assess their possible effects on health, and make quantitative and qualitative estimates of the risk that may result. This axis comprises the largest concentration of researchers in human toxicology and toxicological risk analysis in all Canadian universities.
2.3 Infectious Zoonotic Agents: Human health is intimately linked with the health of animals and ecosystems; the goal of this axis is to understand and develop applications for the surveillance and control of infectious and zoonotic illnesses.
3. Health Systems: This field of research, which brings together two axes, responds to the growing concern among OECD countries to align healthcare financing with health systems objectives, and to strengthen the links between organizational patterns and optimized management and clinical practices. The common goals of researchers in this field are: to understand the changes in health care policies and health systems, as well as changes in governance, organization and management of healthcare and health systems; to understand their impact on how the health system performs; and to identify the levers and innovations that are likely to improve the performance of the system. The scientific program is concerned with three trends associated with recent knowledge development in this field: evidence-based management practices, knowledge-based organisations, and the role of governance and management tools to improve the performance of health organizations and systems.
3.1 Organization and Transformation of Healthcare and Services: This axis is concerned with analyzing the functioning of the healthcare system (analysis of policies, costs, methods of allocation and organization) and with analyzing the levers that allow transformations to proceed, and the performance benefits in the health system to be realized. The variable results from the reforms undertaken in the health system point to the importance of this field of research.
3.2 Clinical Practices and Healthcare Management: The purpose of this axis is to study strategies for optimizing clinical practices and management methods for healthcare, so as to achieve better results for patients and the healthcare system, in terms of quality, effectiveness, safety, efficiency and equity.
4. Global Health: This field of research examines both global and transnational public health, paying particular attention to health inequalities between countries in the northern and southern hemispheres, to priority health concerns (e.g., HIV-AIDS, maternal mortality), and to improving the health of vulnerable populations (e.g., women). The common goal of researchers in this field is to produce knowledge on the development and implementation of public policies and equitable health policies, while working in close partnership with institutions in countries in the southern hemisphere in order to strengthen their capacities. Of course, this field covers a wide range of themes relevant for transnational research, and proposes the analysis of reciprocal links between policies, vulnerability and health from a global perspective. Most of the work is carried out in developing countries, in Africa, Asia, and Latin and Central America. The IRSPUM is one of the main Canadian sites of expertise in this field of research.
5. From Knowledge to Action: The aim of this field of research is to develop knowledge about the processes and tools suitable for mobilizing research results to improve public health practice and decision-making. Furthermore, it aims to foster links between public health research, practice and decision-making – in all spheres of action that affect the health of populations. This research field, which shares an objective common to all fields of research at the IRSPUM, is composed of three axes. Grouped together, these will create a veritable hub of expertise and research in the development of strategies for the best and most appropriate use of knowledge produced by public health research.
5.1 Promoting Knowledge Translation and Exchange (KT&E): This axis is devoted to researching the use of knowledge to improve the health of populations. Work being conducted by several research teams at the IRSPUM includes KT&E and the objective of the axis will be to bring together this work in order to maximize theoretical and practical learning in the field and to develop theories, methods and evidence-based data on KT&E. This axis is also the point of convergence for research about Kt&E in specific domains that fall under other research fields and axes.
5.2 Evaluation and Development of Interventions: This axis focuses on the development of models and methods that allow an intervention or one of its components (e.g., processes, practices, players, technologies, contexts for implementation) to be studied systematically, using valid and socially legitimate scientific information in such a way that the various players involved are able to make decisions that can be turned into action. The work done by researchers in this field deals with a wide spectrum of interventions (e.g., clinical services, technologies, health programs, community interventions, organizations, policies, systems) and health issues (incidence, duration, seriousness or consequences of the illness or disease, distribution of risk factors for illnesses, determinants of health in the population). This axis gathers the largest interdisciplinary group of researchers in Canada specializing in the field of intervention evaluation.
5.3 Policies and Ethics: This axis focuses on the social and policy processes that structure the development, evolution and implementation of health policies and public policies, while also taking into consideration the foundations and ethical implications of initiatives that arise from these policies. The latter relate to the organization of the health system as well as to the interventions carried out in the population. This axis offers theoretical and methodological tools designed to better understand the process of policy development for healthcare organization and public policies that are favourable (and unfavourable) to health and wellbeing, as well as their conditions for implementation.