Ontario Public Health Standards

Foundational Standard

Public health programs and services that are informed by evidence are the foundation for effective public health practice. Evidence-informed practice is responsive to the needs and emerging issues of the health unit and uses the best available evidence to address them. Population health assessment, surveillance, research, and program evaluation generate evidence that contributes to the public health knowledge base and ultimately improves public health programs and services.

Goal

  • Public health practice responds effectively to current and evolving conditions, and contributes to the public's health and well-being.

Societal Outcomes

  • Population health needs are anticipated, identified, addressed, and evaluated.
  • Emerging threats to the public's health are prevented or mitigated.
  • Community-based planning and delivery of public health programs and services incorporate new public health knowledge.

Board of Health Outcomes

  • Public health programs and services are planned and implemented to address local population health needs.
  • The public, community partners, and health care providers are aware of relevant and current population health information.
  • The board of health identifies public health priorities, including identification of emerging public health issues.
  • The board of health allocates resources to reflect public health priorities and reallocates resources, as feasible, to reflect emergent public health priorities.
  • Relevant audiences have available information that is necessary for taking appropriate action.
  • Public health practitioners, policy-makers, community partners, health care providers, and the public are aware of the best available research regarding the factors that determine the health of the population and support effective public health practice.
  • The board of health has effective partnerships with community researchers, academic partners, and other appropriate organizations to support public health research and knowledge exchange.
  • The board of health identifies program implementation issues in a timely and effective manner.
  • Public health practitioners and policy-makers are aware of the effectiveness of existing programs and services, as well as of factors contributing to their outcomes.

Population Health Assessment

Population health assessment includes measuring, monitoring, and reporting on the status of a population's health, including determinants of health and health inequities. Population health assessment provides the information necessary to understand the health of populations through the collaborative development and ongoing maintenance of population health profiles, identification of challenges and opportunities, and monitoring of the health impacts of public health practice.

Requirements

  1. The board of health shall assess current health status, health behaviours, preventive health practices, health care utilization relevant to public health, and demographic indicators in accordance with the Population Health Assessment and Surveillance Protocol, 2008 (or as current). [PDF]
  2. The board of health shall assess trends and changes in local population health in accordance with the Population Health Assessment and Surveillance Protocol, 2008 (or as current). [PDF]
  3. The board of health shall use population health, determinants of health and health inequities information to assess the needs of the local population, including the identification of populations at risk, to determine those groups that would benefit most from public health programs and services (i.e., priority populations3).
  4. The board of health shall tailor public health programs and services to meet local population health needs, including those of priority populations to the extent possible based on available resources.
  5. The board of health shall provide population health information including determinants of health and health inequities to the public, community partners, and health care providers, in accordance with the Population Health Assessment and Surveillance Protocol, 2008 (or as current). [PDF]

Surveillance

Surveillance is the systematic and ongoing collection, collation, and analysis of health-related information that is communicated in a timely manner to all who need to know, so that action can be taken. Surveillance contributes to effective public health program planning, delivery, and management. Dissemination of surveillance analyses may take the form of reports, advisories, healthy public policy recommendations, alerts, or warnings. Surveillance has historically been associated with infectious diseases and vaccination programs, but its importance has become increasingly recognized for environmental health issues, child health, reproductive health, chronic disease prevention, and injury prevention.

Requirements

  1. The board of health shall conduct surveillance, including the ongoing collection, collation, analysis, and periodic reporting of population health indicators, as required by the Health Protection and Promotion Act and in accordance with the Population Health Assessment and Surveillance Protocol, 2008 (or as current). [PDF]
  2. The board of health shall interpret and use surveillance data to communicate information on risks to relevant audiences in accordance with the Identification, Investigation and Management of Health Hazards Protocol, 2008 (or as current); the Infectious Diseases Protocol, 2008 (or as current); the Population Health Assessment and Surveillance Protocol, 2008 (or as current); [PDF] the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Protocol, 2008 (or as current); and the Risk Assessment and Inspection of Facilities Protocol, 2008 (or as current). [PDF]

Research and Knowledge Exchange

Exploring an issue or investigating a question is accomplished through research - the organized and purposeful collection, analysis, and interpretation of data. Research may involve the primary collection of new data or the analysis or synthesis of existing data and research findings. Knowledge exchange is collaborative problem-solving among public health practitioners, researchers, and decision-makers, which takes place through linkage and exchange. It results in mutual learning through the process of planning, producing, disseminating, and applying existing or new research in decision-making.

Requirements

  1. The board of health shall engage in knowledge exchange activities with public health practitioners, policy-makers, community partners, health care providers, and the public regarding factors that determine the health of the population and support effective public health practice gained through population health assessment, surveillance, research, and program evaluation.
  2. The board of health shall foster relationships with community researchers, academic partners, and other appropriate organizations to support public health research and knowledge exchange.
  3. The board of health shall engage in public health research activities,4 which may include those conducted by the board of health alone or in partnership or collaboration with other organizations.

Program Evaluation

Program evaluation is the systematic gathering, analysis, and reporting of data about a program to assist in decision-making. It includes quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-method approaches. Program evaluation produces the information needed to support the establishment of new programs and services (needs assessment); assess whether evidence-informed programs are carried out with the necessary reach, intensity, and duration (process evaluation); or document the effectiveness and efficiency of programs and services (outcome evaluation).

Requirements

  1. The board of health shall routinely monitor program activities and outcomes to assess and improve the implementation and effectiveness of programs and services, including collection, analysis, and periodic reporting of indicators related to inputs, resources, implementation processes, reach, outputs, and outcomes.
  2. The board of health shall conduct program evaluations when new interventions are developed or implemented, or when there is evidence of unexpected operational issues or program results, to understand the linkages between inputs, activities, outputs, and outcomes.
  3. The board of health shall use a range of methods to facilitate public health practitioners' and policy-makers' awareness of the factors that contribute to program effectiveness.

Resources

Live Literature Searches

Links to Other Resources

The following external links have been compiled to help you access other health-related Web sites that are not maintained by the Ontario government. Please read our policy concerning external links.

  1. Effective Public Health Practice Project (EPHPP)
  2. health-evidence.ca
  3. Health Nexus
  4. National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health
  5. National Collaborating Centre for Healthy Public Policy
  6. National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools
  7. National Collaborating Centres for Public Health

Surveillance and Population Health Assessment

  1. British Columbia - Evidence Review: Health Assessment and Disease Surveillance (June 2006) [PDF]
  2. Public Health Agency of Canada - Toward Effective Community-Based Action: Using Epidemiological Skills in Health Surveillance for Local Public Health Practice November 2000)
  3. The Online Health Program Planner

Research and Knowledge Exchange

  1. Canadian Health Services Research Foundation, Knowledge Exchange
  2. Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Institute of Population and Public Health
  3. National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools

Program Evaluation

  1. Canadian Evaluation Society
  2. Health Promotion Building Capacity Services (Public Health Ontario)
  3. Towards Evidence-Informed Practice [PDF]

Program Planning and Health Equity Resources

  1. Sudbury and District Health Unit
  2. Region of Waterloo Public Health

3 Priority populations are identified by surveillance, epidemiological, or other research studies. They are those populations that are at risk and for which public health interventions may be reasonably considered to have a substantial impact at the population level.
4 Research that involves personal health information must comply with the Personal Health Information Protection Act, and specifically with section 44 of that Act.

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