Welcome to the Canadian Health Services and Policy Research Alliance

About Us

The Canadian Health Services and Policy Research Alliance brings together organizations and individuals from across the health system community to collaborate on specific and common priority initiatives. Initially envisioned as an effector arm stemming from the IHSPR Pan Canadian Vision and Strategy in 2014 (Executive Summary | Full Report), the Alliance has successfully developed a number of health system enabling assets that have served our collective community over the past several years.

Using a voluntary workgroup structure, the Alliance provides leadership and the enabling infrastructure to: build a shared workgroup outcome; project plan; and support the development of the planned products to support the broader constituencies. The Training Modernization working group gave rise to the development of alternate career paths for HSPR PhD students and the establishment of the successful Impact Fellowship program. The Impact Assessment working group has successfully extended the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences impact framework to begin to articulate the value of HSPR research to the health system beyond a transactional traditional bibliometric approach.

Through its focused “shared objective and outcome” based approach the Alliance has demonstrated the value of a pan-Canadian forum for output and outcome-based collaboration. By providing the leadership and the necessary discipline and infrastructure, CHSPRA aspires to support the development of the enablers needed to translate science into practice.


The Future of CHSPRA

CHSPRA recently undertook a reflective exercise to help shape our plans for the future. The CHSPRA: Assessment and Options report reinforces the value of CHSPRA’s work and provides some ideas that are helping to shape CHSPRA’s plans for the future.

Training Modernization Working Group

Pan-Canadian Strategy for Health Services and Policy Research Training Modernization (2015)

The Training Modernization Working Group (TMWG) came together at the start of CHSPRA to consider ways to support impact-oriented career paths within and beyond the traditional university setting and to harness the full talents of PhD-trained individuals for continuous health system improvement. They began their work with a white paper that examined the changing nature of career paths for health services and policy research (HSPR) PhD graduates and articulated challenges, opportunities, and future directions for HSPR training. They then produced a pan-Canadian Training Modernization Strategy for HSPR that outlined five core strategic directions to “strengthen the culture within the academy that values applied contributions to the health system.” The strategy also included a competency framework for HSPR (version 1, 2015) that featured 10 enriched core competencies to guide the modernization of HSPR doctoral training and help graduates maximize their impact across a range of sectors and roles.

Refreshed Enriched Core Competencies for Health Services and Policy Research (2024)

The Training Modernization Working Group was reconstituted in 2023 to refresh the competency framework. A framework refresh was deemed important to account for several important changes and events in health policy, public health, and delivery systems that affect the research questions addressed and skills required by researchers (e.g., the advancement of learning health systems, the rapid pace of technological and digital transformation, the increasing propensity and intensity of ecological shocks, the COVID-19 pandemic and the systemic inequities it exacerbated, and more). Following a comprehensive engagement process, the working group reached consensus on a refreshed framework that includes nine core competencies and two new transversal domains: 1) Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, Accessibility & Anti-Oppression, and 2) Indigenous Cultural Safety and Humility. The CIHR Institute of Health Services and Policy Research (CIHR-IHSPR) has adopted the refreshed framework within the Health System Impact Program and work is currently underway to advance its pan-Canadian implementation in doctoral training programs.

The Health System Impact Fellowship (2016 to present)

The Training Modernization Working Group’s pan-Canadian Strategy for Training Modernization informed CIHR-IHSPR’s creation of the Health System Impact (HSI) Fellowship, which launched in 2016. The HSI Fellowship provides highly-qualified doctoral trainees and post-doctoral fellows studying HSPR or related fields a unique opportunity to apply their research and analytic skills and talents to help address critical health care challenges facing the system. The program seeks to support impact-oriented career paths, expand and enrich the traditional training environment and embed research talent within health organizations to advance Learning Health Systems (LHS), and prepare the workforce of the future. In 2023, the program expanded to support an embedded research career trajectory with the addition of a new Embedded Early Career Researcher award. To-date, CIHR-IHSPR and its many partners have funded more than 280 fellows and 12 ECRs embedded within over 125 health system organizations connected to 25 university training programs across the country to accelerate evidence-informed health system improvement.

  • Meet the fellows and ECRs
  • Learn about early program impacts in the 2019 Healthcare Policy special issue on training for impact (available open-access online).
  • Learn about early career outcomes of fellows in a 2023 paper by Kasaai et al in the International Journal of Health Policy and Management: Early Career Outcomes of Embedded Research Fellows: An Analysis of the Health System Impact Fellowship Program.
  • Learn about fellows’ enriched core competency development in a 2023 paper by Kasaai et al in the Learning Health Systems journal: Enrichment of core competencies to maximize health system impact: An analysis of an embedded research training program.
  • Learn about the embedded research training priorities for early career researchers in a 2024 paper by Chukwu et al in the International Journal of Health Policy and Management: Understanding the training, mentorship, and professional development priorities of early career embedded researchers.
  • Read about how the Health System Impact Fellowship program harnesses the power of research for better health system decisions, performance and impacts in this infographic (or access the French infographic here).

Health System Impact National Cohort Training Program

Starting in 2017, IHSPR held annual cohort retreats and quarterly training sessions to provide enhanced training and networking opportunities for fellows, mentors and alum in areas aligned to the enriched core competency framework. In 2020, IHSPR collaborated with CHSPRA to start the HSI Fellowship community of practice. These efforts to build a strong national cohort of engaged fellows has led to numerous collaborative publications and efforts to consider the value of the program including:

To further promote cross-cohort collaboration and growth, the HSIF National Cohort Training Program (NCTP) grant was announced in 2021. The NCTP, led by Dr. Deborah Marshall and a national consortium of 65 members (including program alumni and mentors). The consortium includes representation from eight provinces and brings together a diverse set of perspectives with health system leaders and emerging leaders across academia and the health care delivery, public, not-for-profit, and private sectors. Their unique insight into the HSI Fellowship program, and connection to health system organizations and decision-makers, provided a strong basis for advancing HSI Fellow cohort development and more broadly, learning health systems across Canada.

To further support the cohort’s growth, development, and longitudinal impact, CIHR-IHSPR and the CIHR Centre for Research on Pandemic Preparedness and Health Emergencies partnered to fund a six-year $2.4M Health Research training platform to build on the success and contributions of the NCTP. This training platform, called the Health System Impact Training Platform, will be announced in summer 2024 and will continue to support training and networking for fellows and ECRs in areas aligned to the refreshed competency framework while also adding dedicated programming for alumni as they embark in their professional careers, Health System Impact Program supervisors and mentors, and host partner organizations. The platform’s overall aim will be to help build the capabilities and collaborations for transformational, agile, and responsive learning health systems that advance the Quintuple Aim.

Impact Narratives

In 2021, CIHR-IHSPR and CHSPRA joined forces to produce the first HSI Fellowship Embedded Research Impact Casebook. Jointly written by the fellows and their supervisors, an Impact Narrative highlights the most notable and consequential impacts that arose from the fellowship, including the fellow’s contributions to capacity-building, translatable research evidence, evidence-informed decision-making, and health system improvement. This casebook includes 18 Impact Narratives submitted by HSI Fellows from the 2017, 2018 and 2019 cohorts, who were embedded in 15 different health system organizations spanning several sectors and five provinces.

Next Steps – Advancing Implementation and Uptake of the refreshed Enriched Core Competency Framework

Work is commencing to support the pan-Canadian implementation and adoption of the refreshed competency framework. Updates will be posted here.

Impact Analysis and Assessment


Canada has a long tradition of providing leadership in the area of impact analysis. In 2009, the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences published Making an Impact: A Preferred Framework and Indicators to Measure Return on Investment in Health Research. This was followed by a collaborative effort with the National Alliance of Provincial Health Research Organizations (NAPHRO) to examine investments in health research. This work supported the development of the pan-Canadian HSPR strategy.

CHSPRA Framework Development

The Impact Assessment Working Group (IAWG) was formed in 2015 in response to one of the Pan-Canadian Strategy’s foundational strategic directions which called on the HSPR community to “integrate innovative thinking and best practices in impact and its assessment, in addition, to develop new metrics that capture the true value and impact of HSPR and HSPR investments.” (Executive Summary | Full Report)

The IAWG identified the need to go beyond reporting investment data to include understanding the effect or impact those investments had on the health system. This group of organizational leaders in HSPR, impact assessment and evaluation completed a literature review and then developed an impact assessment framework and indicators specific to decision-making in health services and policy research. The CHSPRA Informing Decision-making Impact Framework (‘the CHSRPA Framework’) addresses an assessment void by clarifying key impacts along the pathway between health services and policy knowledge production and the downstream effect on health and societal outcomes and impacts.

CHSPRA Framework How-to Guide and Case Illustrations

Following the publication of the CHSPRA Framework and indicators, the IAWG considered opportunities to advance impact assessment practice by supporting and understanding the use of frameworks. This resulted in two initiatives.

The first involved a number of diverse organizations across Canada implementing the framework to inform impact assessments. Based on their real-world experiences, these organizations developed a ‘how-to guide’ (Executive Summary, French translation) that provides practical guidance for using research impact assessment frameworks, as well as case illustrations (English, French) that bring the successes, challenges and lessons learned to life. The guide was also introduced during a workshop at Virtually CAHSPR in 2021.

Resources related to the ‘How-to’ Guide and Case Illustrations include a one-pager that provides information on the value of these tools and a Quick Reference Guide that synthesizes strategic, procedural, and methodological considerations for implementing the CHSPRA Framework.

The second initiative involved guiding organizations and CIHR Health System Impact Fellows in using the CHSPRA Framework to writing impact narratives. CHSPRA and the Institute for Health Services and Policy Research – Canadian Institutes of Health Research (IHSPR-CIHR) partnered to develop and disseminate impact narratives in the HSI Fellows Impact Narratives Casebook.

During COVID, the organization of the IAWG evolved into two groups, the working group that completed the development of the ‘how-to-guide’ and a community of practice called the Impact Assessment Collaborative.

Research Impact in Health Services & Policy Research

An informational leaflet and resources on research impact and impact assessment in health services and policy research – what is it; why is it significant; and how can you contribute.

Impact Assessment Collaborative

The Impact Assessment Collaborative (IAC) brings together leaders in areas such as impact assessment, performance measurement and evaluation from various organizations, including funders, government, universities, and not-for-profits, to share experiences and information on what’s happening in their respective organizational contexts and to identify areas where collaboration is needed. The group meets monthly to engage in dialogue on topics such as defining and measuring value, building common language and highlighting systems approaches to impact assessment.

Learning Health Systems Working Group

Much of the work undertaken by the members of CHSPRA could be characterized as contributing to building learning health systems in Canada. The TMWG examined the evidence to date that suggested that embedded fellowships are an effective approach to building more “learning” into the many varied systems that support health. This work led to the HSIF program.

Advancing the practice of impact assessment and analysis is also core to building learning into health systems.

In 2017, CHSPRA leaders also started further conversation about learning health systems in Canada with an assessment conducted by the McMaster Health Forum to synthesize the evidence about rapid-learning health systems and to scan the country for related initiaitives.

Further dialogue specific to learning health systems gave way to other priorities over the course of the pandemic.

CHSPRA Contributors

Many in the health services and policy research community have contributed to CHSPRA since its inception in 2015. Some have filled roles as founders and visionaries, organizers, planners and/or working group members. Collectively these contributors make up the “members” of CHSPRA.

Here we try to acknowledge those who have contributed to CHSPRA’s efforts, though we know the lists may be incomplete.

Contact Us: contact@chspra.ca

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