Health Research at a Glance

Yellow Bar

Patients and  caregivers are actively partnering in health research globally -- and Canada is no exception.

Patient partners in research vs patients as subjects of research

It is still important that we continue to be subjects of research.

As partners, patients and caregivers are helping to set research priorities, to evaluate research, and to partner on research teams. Researchers are starting to value the perspective of patients and caregivers as an essential piece of the research puzzle.  


Strategy for Patient Oriented Research (SPOR) logo   

Federally, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)  launched its Strategy for Patient Oriented Research (SPOR) initiative in 2011 .    More about SPOR

SPOR Networks

Currently there are several pan-Canadian SPOR Networks:

a) SPOR Networks in Chronic Disease - learn about the 5 networks under Chronic Disease.

b) SPOR Network in Youth and Adolescent Mental Health – ACCESS Open Minds - more

c) Pan-Canadian SPOR Network in Primary and Integrated Health Care Innovations - more


There are SPOR SUPPORT Units in most provinces/territories that work within their jurisdictions to promote the inclusion of patients and caregivers as partners in research. - for a complete list of SPOR SUPPORT Units.

Many of these Units support groups of patients and caregivers active as partners on research teams with training and networking.  

PaCER Innovates logo

The Patient and Community Engagement Research or PaCER program is part of the O’Brien Institute of Public Health in the Cumming School of Medicine in partnership with the Strategic Clinical Networks (SCNs) in Alberta.  More about PaCER.

PaCER  is a 1 year university-based training program that prepares patients, family members and students to become researchers by designing and conducting research.

This is a unique opportunity for patients and family members. While it is based in Calgary, PaCER is looking at expanding to an online format -- stay tuned!

Other National Organizations

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) is an independent, not-for-profit organization that provides essential information on Canada’s health systems and the health of Canadians. 

The Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement (CFHI) is a not-for-profit organization funded by the Government of Canada, dedicated to accelerating healthcare improvement. CFHI plays a unique, pan-Canadian role in spreading healthcare innovations. 


In the English-speaking world, there are some key international organizations that promote patient and caregiver involvement in health research.

UK          INVOLVE          

US          PCORI                  

Resources on Health Research


About patients/caregivers partnering in research

Public, patients and caregivers are involved in research as partners and panel members on research team and in helping to set research priorities.

Primary Health Care Research & Information Service (2017). PHCRIS Getting Started Guides: Introduction to... Consumer involvement in research. 

Once you get over the semantic bump of the Australian use of “consumers” for those whom we call “patients”, you will find a great array of information from this highly useful website. Although the focus is on primary care, there’s much useful orientation on research generally. I highly recommend these clear ‘how to’ tutorials on what research is and how it is done. Language is clear and the content is sophisticated. 

“The Primary Health Care Research and Information Service (PHCRIS), based at Flinders University, …has been funded by the Australian Government Department of Health to undertake a broad range of activities related to synthesising and sharing research evidence and engaging with primary health care researchers, policy-makers, practitioners and consumers to facilitate knowledge exchange. This core funding will cease at the end of 2016. From 2017, some elements of PHCRIS will continue, with support from Flinders University.”


Australian National Health and Medical Research Council’s The Consumer and Community Health Research Network 

This active organization situated in Western Australia has a national and international network of collaborators. Take a look at this friendly website with plain language discussion of patient (“consumer”) and community involvement in research. There are sections addressing researchers as well as members of the public on collaborative research. In addition to how-to sections, there are reports on projects. For example, they’ve undertaken community-based research priority-setting for domestic and family violence.  As they say…

•  We bring together consumers, community members and researchers to make decisions about health research priorities, policy and practice.

•  We support consumer and community involvement to become standard practice in health research.

•  We promote the community ‘voice’ in health research through our services, resources, events and training programs.


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The Canadian Instititues of Health Research (CIHR) is Canada’s federal funding agency for health research. Composed of 13 Institutes, CIHR collaborates with partners and researchers to support the discoveries and innovations that improve our health and strengthen our health care system.  Some of the institutes engage with patient/caregiver partners. CIHR invests approximately $1 billion a year in research.  Learn more.  


Webinars by Patient Partners on Partnering in Research
Based on work funded by
 Ontario SPOR SUPPORT Unit logo
through Patients Canada

Creating Patient Partnerships  
- sponsored by Newfoundland & Labrador SPOR SUPPORT Unit

Recruiting Patient and Caregivers as Partners on Research Teams
- sponsored by  Ottawa Hospital Research Institute

Slides:  Slides for Recruiting Patient and Caregivers as Partners on Research Teams



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