Building Capacity for Public Health in BC – Mapping Public Health

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BC Place – Session 5, Wednesday, May 31, 2006 from 08:30 – 10:00

Abstract Title: Building Capacity for Public Health in BC – Mapping Public Health

Presenting Author:

James Leslie and Nora Whyte
Independent Health Services Planning Consultants
1831 Trafalgar Street
Vancouver, BC V6K 3S1

Shannon Turner, President
Public Health Association of BC
#219 – 2187 Oak Bay Avenue
Victoria BC V8R 1G1

This panel presentation will be a report on work that is currently underway. We will review our progress to this point, talk about what we have learned, and describe our next steps. We will then open the floor to discussion and seek observations and suggestions that may help us in continuing our work.

Project Goals:
This project will help to “map out” the basic infrastructure of public health services. It will focus on both mandated, legislated public health functions and the broader field of activities covered in health promotion and population health activities. It will serve as the first phase of a more comprehensive initiative to understand and better define the resources applied, how they are organized, how services are made accessible, the differing roles of the many organizations and agencies in the field and the capacity building functions of the academic sector. The completion of this project will enhance our ability to advocate for public health with policy makers and with our broader constituencies in community based organizations. The map will also be a tool in our efforts to organize a coalition that will give a unified voice to public health in BC.

Methods and Objectives:
• Define the scope of the map and determine what data and information would be available to us.
• Develop survey process to seek out the views of public health practitioners in the field with a focus on workplace and community issues-working life at ‘the coal face.
• Determine who our audiences would be.
• Coordinate the mapping piece with elements of a broader project to ‘Build Capacity for Public Health in BC.
• Initiate consideration of the design of the web site which is to be the vehicle for dissemination of the map.

Challenges and Results:
The project could be successful only if it were complementary or at least in sync with the numerous large-scale transformative changes underway in all areas of the health sector in BC. Examples of processes that needed to be considered were implementation of the Core Functions Framework, structural changes within each of the province’s Health Authorities, health promotion initiatives with municipalities, Act Now and the Healthy Living Alliance initiatives and a new interest in public health among First Nations and Aboriginal organizations as a result of the Kelowna Accord.

The atmosphere was one of furious activity, many of those we wanted to contact were not easily contacted and were leery of our imposing new demands on their already overburdened schedules. Our workplan was driven by project timelines that were widely divergent from our needed respondents.

Given the breadth of the field of public health and the diversity of interest and approaches within that field we found our resources stretched as we experienced the dread of ‘scope creep’.

We have had to persistently remind ourselves that we are not producing a finished product, a Report that will signal an end to our toils; we are producing a first layer of a resource that will be broadened, deepened and refined over time as it becomes useful to those working in the field as practitioners, policy makers, citizens, politicians and partners. We are also creating an information clearing house that will require ongoing maintenance if the information is to be current and relevant.

This project has been an enormous challenge across many dimensions. Much has been learned, much remains to be done.