Who we are
It’s a clear vision embarked upon by the O’Brien Institute for Public Health at the University of Calgary — seeking to improve our health system and keep people healthy
Better health and health care
The O’Brien Institute membership is multidisciplinary, and includes a combination of knowledge generators (who initiate and conduct research projects) and knowledge users (who incorporate new knowledge into policy and practice). O’Brien Institute members have their appointments within 17 Departments of the Cumming School of Medicine, and many are appointed within other University of Calgary Faculties and Schools, including the Faculty of Law, the Faculty of Social Work and the School of Public Policy, among others. Members are also employed by Alberta Health Services, municipal and provincial government agencies, community service organizations, and other educational institutions.
The O’Brien Institute has evolved over the past 10 years into a collegial environment that is more than the sum of its parts. Together, we are:
- competitive; and
- socially responsible
The International Scientific Advisory Group (ISAG) is a key and crucial entity within the O’Brien Institute for Public Health community. The ISAG is made up of international leaders in their respective fields – their main contribution to the Institute being a periodic visit, based on which they formulate assessments and present suggestions on how best to position the Institute as a leader in public health in Alberta and beyond. By providing members of the ISAG with an intimate look at the work being done at the Institute, and the impact its initiatives have generated, these experts are able to lend an external perspective, and international context, to the scientific endeavours of the Institute.
How we achieve our purpose
As an impartial knowledge broker, the Institute catalyzes and promotes research through its research pipeline, informing decision-makers and guiding interventions. Research knowledge also flows both by push from the researchers and pull from the research users. The O’Brien Institute’s pipeline development has been more auspicious than Alberta’s more traditional oil and gas pipeline development over the past two years, and the functionality of this pipeline is evident in the Institute's impact.
The Institute is dedicated to ensuring that the knowledge generated by O’Brien members serves its desired foundational role through effective knowledge translation. This is achieved by building networks and applying knowledge translation to put research to work for societal impact. This is accomplished through external communications, conducting events, employing community and public outreach tools, and deploying social media campaigns to disseminate members’ expertise.
The O'Brien Institute for Public Health is the newest University of Calgary research Institute within the Cumming School of Medicine.
The Institute came into existence in 2010 as a partnership between the University of Calgary and Alberta Health Services (AHS), and was originally named the Calgary Institute for Population and Public Health.
Why we're here
Some believe that health outcomes are determined by what individuals do or don’t do for their own wellbeing. The O’Brien Institute for Public Health sees it differently.
Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) are key predictors of health outcomes throughout an individual's lifetime. These social determinants include income level, education and employment opportunities, as well as race and gender equity. With a keen understanding of the impact of SDoH on health outcomes, the Institute embraces a cross-sectoral approach to research with the goal of improving population health for individuals in our communities and beyond.
Impacting policy and policy makers
The O’Brien Institute is dedicated to ensuring that the knowledge generated by members is brought into the public sphere to impact decision-makers at all levels of government. Below are just a handful of ways our members' research has moved the needle on the issues that matter to Canadians.
- Cannabis legalization: Institute members provided expertise on a public health-focused implementation of cannabis legalization, including at the Cannabis Legalization in Canada public forum, attended by members of the public, government officials, health care practitioners and researchers. Presentations from this event were requested by a member of the Senate, who served as the sponsor to the Senate for Bill C-45, the Act to legalize cannabis.
Canada's new Food Guide: Together with the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta, the Institute hosted a two-day forum to examine Canada’s revamped food guide, the federal government’s national food strategy, and explore opportunities in policy to increase access to nutritious foods in schools, restaurants and markets.
Provincial election: Ahead of the 2019 provincial election, the Institute partnered with the Alberta Public Health Association (APHA) to host an all-party candidate’s forum, tackling public health issues, including immunization, safe consumption sites, food insecurity, and questioning candidates on their relevant views and party platforms.
Children's health: The Institute developed a report for Children First Canada to paint a high-level picture of the health status of children across Canada, both mental and physical, using readily available and reputable sources of data. This longitudinal collaboration resulted in the production of research, policy documents and presentations to the Senate. Read the story in UToday.