Beyond assessing and reporting: Acting on evidence of inequity in the in the Maritime provinces
Since releasing its public health roles for improving health equity,  the NCCDH has found examples of public health organizations at all levels that have championed the role of assessing and reporting on the existence and impact of health inequities.
The Public Health Agency of Canada and the Pan-Canadian Public Health Network, for example, released the Key health inequalities in Canada: A national portrait (2018) report and launched the Pan-Canadian Health Inequalities Data Tool that allows users to explore equity indictors by a range of stratifiers, such as race, deprivation and Indigenous status. Likewise, British Columbia and Quebec have released health equity reports and atlases, respectively.
In addition, local organizations are assessing and reporting the existence and impact of health inequities in their communities, as seen in Toronto Public Health’s The unequal city 2015: Income and health inequities in Toronto.
Examples of applying population data to health equity work
But what happens once the reporting is done? How are public health organizations capitalizing on the data to support and mobilize action to improve health equity? I spoke to public health organizations in the Maritime provinces who released health inequities reports in recent years to hear how they have been making use of the data.
The examples below demonstrate how they are using data to support action in with the other three public health roles for improving health equity:
Public health role: Modify and orient interventions
Prince Edward Island’s Children’s report 2017 assesses the association between the social determinants of health, health equity and health behaviours and outcomes for children on the Island.  The report included a call for ‘sustainable, root-cause, population-level interventions’ to address inequity, among other recommendations.
Since releasing the report, the Island’s Chief Public Health Office has participated in a multi-departmental child well-being committee that is addressing some of the document’s recommendations.
Public health role: Partner with other sectors
- In 2014, Public Health Services and Nova Scotia’s former Capital Health Authority released a two-part population health status report exploring variations in the social determinants of health and health outcomes between communities in their region. [3,4] Capital Health also applied the equity measures framework from this two-part report in a partnership with the Halifax Food Policy Alliance to help them produce another document the same year titled Food counts: Halifax food assessment.
- Health inequities in New Brunswick reported on health inequities in the province based on income, education and sex in 2016.  Since its release, the province’s Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health has used the data to inform the work of its partners, such as using data related to tobacco and food insecurity to inform the work of the New Brunswick Anti-Tobacco Coalition.
Public health role: Participate in policy development
- Internally, the Chief Public Health Office on Prince Edward Island has been using data from the aforementioned Children’s report — as well as the 2016 Health for all islanders report, which focused on equity  —to inform the work of the Department of Health’s Health Promotion Committee. The committee focuses on the development of healthy public policies and community engagement, and is using the reports to identify which policies to advance.
- Externally, the Chief Public Health Office on Prince Edward Island has been actively presenting on the Children’s report and Health for all islanders data to politicians and government officials in an effort to promote action on the reports’ findings.
- Within New Brunswick’s Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, findings from Health inequities in New Brunswick are being integrated into briefing notes on topics such as tobacco.
The examples above are just small sample of the ways that data on the existence and impact of health inequities are being acted upon by public health organizations. In the coming month, we will feature accounts from additional organizations describing how they are acting upon their assessment and reporting on health inequities in their jurisdictions.
The NCCDH thanks the following individuals for providing practice-based examples for this post:
- Maurice Collette of New Brunswick’s Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health
- Drs. Heather Morrison and David Sabapathy with Prince Edward Island’s Chief Public Health Office
- Dr. Gaynor Watson-Creed, Deputy Chief Medical Officer of Health Nova Scotia (former Medical Officer of Health for Capital Health)
Photo credit: Des
[1.] National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health. Let’s Talk: Public health Roles for improving health equity [Internet]. Antigonish (NS): NCCDH, St. Francis Xavier University (CA); 2013 [cited 2018 Oct 25]. Available from: http://nccdh.ca/resources/entry/lets-talk-public-health-roles
[2.] Chief Public Health Office. Children’s Report 2017 [Internet]. Charlottetown (PEI): Document Publishing Centre; 2017 [cited 2018 Oct 25]. Available from: https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/sites/default/files/publications/pei_childrens_report_web_2017_2.pdf
[3.] D’Angelo-Scott H. An Overview of the Health of Our Population Capital Health, 2013 Part 1 [Internet]. Halifax (NS): Capital Health; 2014 May. Available from: www.cdha.nshealth.ca/system/files/sites/.../population-health-status-report-part-i.pdf
[4.] D’Angelo-Scott H. An Overview of the Health of Our Population Capital Health, 2013 Part 2 [Internet]. Halifax (NS): Capital Health; 2014 May. Available from: https://www.cdha.nshealth.ca/system/files/.../population-health-status-report-part-2.pdf
[5.] Wang H, Emrich T, Collette M. Health Inequities in New Brunswick [Internet]. Fredericton (NB): Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, New Brunswick Department of Health; 2016 Feb [cited 2018 Oct 30]. Available from: https://www2.gnb.ca/content/dam/gnb/Departments/h-s/pdf/en/Publications/HealthInequitiesNewBrunswick2016.pdf
[6.] Chief Public Health Office. Health for All Islanders [Internet]. Charlottetown (PEI): Document Publishing Centre; 2016 [cited 2018 Oct 30]. Available from: http://www.gov.pe.ca/photos/original/cpho_report2016.pdf