Introducing The Nova Scotia Integrated Health Research and Innovation Strategy. Led by a team of collaborators from Dalhousie, the other Nova Scotia universities engaged in health research, the NSHA, the IWK, and the Government of Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia Integrated Health Research and Innovation Strategy (NS IHRIS) is a new, pan-provincial network supporting the health research priorities of Nova Scotia and its member organizations.

Bridging the gap between academic researchers, health authorities, government, industry, and key stakeholder groups, the goal of the network is to improve health and health care in Nova Scotia, through research and innovation. 

“This is the first time the provincial government, health authorities, post-secondary institutions, industry, and the public will bring their research and expertise together, at the same table, to address critical health issues in Nova Scotia,” says Dr. Aiken. “We have a wealth of research, resources, and expertise in this province, and by leveraging our collective strengths, we can have a much greater impact.”

Since joining Dalhousie’s Faculty in 2016, Dr. Aiken has been working toward system change, with the goal of supporting alignment in the province between research institutions, clinicians and government, as well as critical system challenges like inaccessible health data. Today, with a team of key experts and stakeholders onboard, including the Department of Health and Wellness, Department of Labour and Advanced Education and Department of Business, the Nova Scotia Health Authority and the IWK, Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation, the Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation, multiple post-secondary academic institutions, and industry partners, the NS IHRIS will lead the change and drive the collaborative health research and innovation agenda in Nova Scotia.

“The Faculty of Medicine is very pleased to be a member of the team developing a health research and innovation strategy for the province. This collaborative research strategy will aim to integrate researchers with opportunities to investigate and ultimately improve the health of people living in Nova Scotia,” says Dr. David Anderson, Dean of Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Medicine. “Furthermore, we have the building blocks in place here to not only advance health research in this region, but to serve as a model in national health care reform for the rest of Canada.”

Indeed, with Nova Scotia having just two health authorities working closely together, a major university with a medical school and a comprehensive list of health programs, support from the provincial government, and six other post-secondary institutions also working in health research and care, there is a tremendous opportunity to come together and find synergies with the NS IHRIS, in a truly competitive way.

One of the first outcomes of the NS IHRIS will be the establishment of an asset map to identify what research is happening in the province and where, and what data currently exists. Following this, the establishment of an accessible, integrated database to share relevant data across all network members will expedite research progress and improve health care practice and policy through evidence-informed decision making.

“Where today, the province conducts a lot of its own research on primary areas such as child and youth mental health, for example, tomorrow, they will simply be able to tap into resources like Dalhousie’s Dr. Mike Ungar, a world expert in child and youth resilience, to harness the data they need around best practices,” says Dr. Aiken. “Similarly, a policy expert seeking information on the social determinants of health could spark a collaboration with St. Francis Xavier University, understanding that they are conducting leading research on this very topic.”

In addition to providing government, researchers and health professionals with the information and resources they need to solve the health issues of our time, IHRIS will also provide opportunities to collaborate with industry partners in the same manner. Through an understanding of what expertise lies where, the network will open the doors to new partnerships wherein capacity building can occur quickly, and novel treatments and prevention strategies can be implemented.

“This is about being proactive, looking at all angles, and improving health research and innovation across the spectrum using our combined resources,” says Dr. Aiken. “With the networks and expertise we have in this province, I believe we have a real advantage when it comes to this task in that we’re powerful enough to have a large impact and small enough to actually get it done,” says Dr. Aiken.

We look forward to supporting the NS IHRIS initiative in the coming months. Together, with support from government, institutions, and organizations like DMRF, we can improve health in Nova Scotia, across the entire lifecycle.

Watch video for more information.