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Sharing Popular and Scientific Knowledge to Advance Practice

March 31, 2015

An ongoing challenge for those working to reduce inequities in health has been finding and using evidence, due in part to the traditional divide between research and practice.  This challenge underscores the importance of public health organizations contributing to the evidence base.  This can be done through mechanisms such as journal publications, reports, and blogs, and also through communities of practice. 

A good example of this promising practice can be found in Quebec with the work of the Advancing Practice Committee . This unique community of practice network is facilitated by staff at the Eastern Township’s Observatory for Community Development (OEDC -L’Observatoire estrien du développement des communautés).  The network meets monthly to discuss topics of interest about community development, including the reduction of social inequities.  The committee provides researchers and health sector practitioners with an opportunity to share data, knowledge and resources.  It is made up of 18 people from sectors such as health, environment, social economy, community development, and employment, and from academic and practice disciplines.

The organization of both the committee and the Observatory is unique in Canada, embodying the Quebec public health definition of community development.  Community development is seen as a process of voluntary cooperation, mutual assistance and social links between residents and institutions in local communities with the goal of improving living conditions at physical, social and economic levels.  As a result, the committee is cross-sectoral and focused on supporting local action.  Monthly presentations are rotated between practitioners and researchers (keeping this balance throughout the program), and at the end of each session, presenters are tasked with summarizing the factors that may facilitate the implementation of the desired change, and the challenges and obstacles to making the desired change.  

Examples of collaborative projects “work-shopped” by the Advancing Practice Committee can be found in French on their website.  One project involves researchers and community members from St. Camille working together to identify the key ingredients of a successful community.  

Dr. Alain Rochon (Community Medicine Specialist, Eastern Township Health and Social Services Agency), attributes the success of the Advancing Practice Committee in supporting action to the following factors:  

  • Dedicated leadership and passionate champions – demonstrated by commitment from the Director of Public Health to financially supporting the network, and by the regular attendance and full participation of champions across sectors.
  • Culture of trust, empowerment and respect – demonstrated by the open and frank dialogue, and innovative thinking.
  • Intersectoral involvement – that helps to integrate research and practice and identify l ideas of mutual interest for future research projects
  • Focused discussions –on a specific theme related to the values and principles of community development, with a view to promote social justice and health equity.
  • Mechanisms for sharing – through the meetings and a dedicated website.
  • Population health focus – to help health care and non-health care providers think about health equity and the impact their decisions could have on the whole population.
  • Community engagement – as a priority concern that the network represent and/or involve community members in the discussion. 

As Rochon points out, the Advancing Practice Committee demonstrates how critical it is to share both popular and scientific knowledge, experiences and resources in order to adopt responsive and efficient strategies in support of the populations we serve.

Please visit the NCCDH Resource Library for related materials, including:

Assessing the impact and effectiveness of intersectoral action on the social determinants of health, NCCDH 201
Capitalizing on change: Building leadership competency in public health in Quebec, NCCDH 2012 
Improving health equity in Saskatoon: From data to action, NCCDH 2012 
VIDEO:  Public Health Speaks: Purposeful reporting for health equity, NCCDH 2013

We would like to hear from you!  What have your successes been in contributing to the evidence base and using community engagement/intersectoral action as practices to improve health equity?  What resources do you find helpful?  Please send your ideas and examples to Lesley Dyck, Knowledge Translation Specialist.

With thanks to Helena Wall and Alain Rochon for their help in preparing this story.

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