Health research conference sounds optimistic note for health workforce planning

People talk in front of tables at a trade show

The Health Workforce Canada team and I attended our first pan-Canadian health research and policy conference last week. We were warmly welcomed at CASPHR (Canadian Association for Health Services and Policy Research), and came away with a strong sense of hope and optimism for the future of our health workforce.

It’s clear that everyone is paying attention to the challenges, and recognizing the need to put people at the centre of learning health systems. There is a strong desire for ongoing research, policy analysis and evaluation frameworks that can point the way to a better future. The enthusiasm and commitment for all of this at the conference was palpable.

Clearly, there is a need to address the growing concerns about Canada’s health workforce, for both today and tomorrow. Canada is not alone in its health workforce challenges. The problem is a global one, and it is not going to go away without applying a concerted and targeted focus. We need better data to support planning. We need reliable and understandable forecasting and modelling. And we need mechanisms to collaborate and to share ideas about what is working and what is not – so that we have a strong, healthy health workforce for the future.

The conference was an opportunity for us to seek out ideas about how Health Workforce Canada can support the health workforce ecosystem. We also heard about the amazing work already happening across the country.

We were particularly impressed by many of the students who presented innovative and future-focused projects on health human resources, health system performance, mental health, primary care and long-term care, among other things. These young people are our future health workers, professors and health system leaders. It was wonderful to see them connecting, learning and inspiring at every opportunity.

Our vision is for a strong, healthy health workforce for Canada. I know that, by working together, we will get there.

Deb Cohen is Health Workforce Canada’s Chief Operating Officer