Empowering Northern Ontario communities through research
Social accountability leads to locally-driven solutions
Social accountability defines NOSM University. NOSM University researchers work to support the goals of communities and partners so that local priority health concerns lead health-system transformation.
“Our entire research program is built upon partnerships,” explains Dr. Brianne Wood, Associate Scientist, Social Accountability and Learning Health Systems at the Dr. Gilles Arcand Centre for Health Equity. “Partnerships and engagement are the foundation of social accountability. Social accountability requires that you direct your activities towards the needs and priorities of communities and organizations such as health system partners. Social accountability leads to meaningful collaboration, and it holds you to account so your research is useful.”
Dr. Wood’s work integrates social accountability and learning health systems, which means that her research projects aim to answer questions from communities and health system partners, and then the knowledge generated is integrated into health services and medical education. This integration closes the loop between community needs, health services delivery, and medical education.
“Embedded, socially-accountable research takes away the ivory tower and makes the research more real. Because we are working with the people who lead changes on the ground, you see the impact of the research because we are already working together. Patients, populations, and communities can contribute their perspectives about their priorities and questions. They can be involved in research in ways that empowers people.”
Recent projects include a teams-based approach to the Northwestern Ontario Health Teams (OHT) Impact Fellowship, and working with All Nations Health Partners in Kenora to answer research questions about high cancer rates in their region.
Jessica Logozzo is Vice President, Strategy and Regional Transformation at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre. Working on behalf of the 12 hospitals in Northwestern Ontario, she partners with Dr. Wood on the OHT project.
“Working with Dr. Wood and the NOSM University team on the OHT Impact Fellowship has been a true example of social accountability in action,” Logozzo says. “By working directly with two Ontario Health Teams on the issues that they self-identified, NOSM University’s team was able to co-produce research, evidence, and analytics that were most relevant to the OHT and partners. This partnership enabled meaningful research for our region that will enhance our collective efforts towards improvements in population health and system transformation.”
Ultimately, socially-accountable research sees results, says Dr. Wood.
“Partnership research is how you make sustainable change in the health system. It helps the findings be more reliable and trustworthy, which in turn can improve outcomes for patients and populations. It can help make health care more efficient and a better experience, both from the perspective of the patient and from the people delivering the care,” she says.