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What is the purpose of population health status reporting in Canada?

on August 14, 2012

There is no “one size fits all” approach to population health status reports and reporting processes!  That was the conclusion of the first Learning Circle meeting of the Population Health Status Reporting Initiative  held in March 2012.

To frame the March 2012 Learning Circle discussion, the NCCDH summarized evidence from the grey and scholarly literature and incorporated experiential evidence from key informants. We found that population health status reports assess a wide range of populations and issues.  The intended purpose of any particular report, however, is context specific:
Program/service focus: to improve accountability, to assess the quality and effectiveness of a health care service, program or policy, or to aid service planning and budgeting
Population focus: to assess changes in health status over time and across geographic regions
Health disparity focus: to assess the impact of determinants of health, or to identify or quantify health disparities

This wide scope and diversity of “purposes” for population health status reports was echoed in the wide-ranging and enthusiastic discussion of the Learning Circle.  One of the first and most important points brought up in the discussion was that there needs to be a distinction between “reports” and “reporting”.  It is critical to consider both the actual report and the process of creating and disseminating reports in order to identify and understand purpose and impact.

A number of themes specific to “purpose” emerged.  In brief, there was agreement that population health status reporting is intended to:
1. Result in action
2. Provide evidence-based analyses
3. Support program and organizational accountability
4. Advance shared health equity objectives

A synthesis of the March 2012 Learning Circle discussion is available as part of the Learning Together  series and can be found with other related documents in our Resource Library

Public health practitioners can also share ideas, experiences, and resources on this topic through online discussions in Health Equity Clicks: Community. To sign up, visit

The Learning Circle’s next topic is selecting indicators for measuring health inequities. Visit our website to find forthcoming resources and discussions.



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