What We Do
We are one National Collaborating Centre...

The National Collaborating Centre for Healthy Public Policy (NCCHPP) is one of Canada's six National Collaborating Centres for Public Health, or NCCs. The NCCs were created in 2005-2006 in order to help to bridge research with action.

Each NCC is based at a different host institution and each has a specific topic, but all share the same mandate to synthesize and share knowledge in collaboration with frontline practitioners, policy makers, researchers, and others to improve public health policies and practices in Canada.

Other key goals include creating and supporting networks, identifying knowledge gaps, and promoting research.
Image Canada map with NCCs courtesy of NCCPH

Funding comes from a contribution agreement with the Public Health Agency of Canada. Since the NCCs' workplans and priorities are based on regularly conducted needs assessments and environmental scans, their programming is independent from their respective host institutions and from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The NCC for Healthy Public Policy is based in Montréal and is hosted by the Institut national de santé publique du Québec, a centre for research and expertise in public health.

…with an interest in healthy public policy.

Our mandate is to increase the expertise of public health actors across Canada in healthy public policy through the development, sharing and use of knowledge.

At the NCCHPP, our interest is in Healthy Public Policy, which we understand to mean public policy that potentially enhances populations' health by having a positive impact on the social, economic, and environmental determinants of health.

This approach is based on the understanding developed through research over recent decades that health is influenced by many factors, such as education, social support, income, and the physical environment. We see public policies as tools to influence these determinants. Examples include policies affecting transportation, housing, food distribution, fiscal measures, education strategies, and so on.

In his seminal paper Beyond Health Care: From Public Health Policy to Healthy Public Policy” 
465 K. (Note 1), Trevor Hancock contrasts two kinds of policy, noting that public health policy “is chiefly concerned with the existing sick care system” and “accepts the givens of our present socio-cultural system and within those givens plans an illness care system”, whereas healthy public policy questions the givens by asking “Why do we have to structure our society in such a way as to create ill health?” (Note 2).

Although health services are a determinant of health, we explicitly exclude policies in this sector, such as waiting lists, for example. These important policies are already addressed by other researchers and organizations.

Defining “Public Policy”
We understand public policy to mean: “A statement or strategic action produced or led by a public authority,” in one of the following ways:

1. A statement produced by a public authority that defines one or more problems affecting the population or one or more groups within it, and that also furnishes (to varying degrees) a response to that problem in terms of objectives, actions and actors. 

2. A strategic action led by a public authority in order to limit or increase the presence of certain phenomena within the population

By "public authority" we mean a legislative or executive (or, in #1 only, judiciary) authority of, or derived from, a federal, provincial, regional or municipal public administration.

The NCCHPP is particularly interested in the processes influencing these choices: how problems emerge in the public discourse, how they are put on the public agenda, and how the solutions for these problems are elaborated. Although a centre focused on healthy public policy is an innovative initiative in Canada, the idea of healthy public policy is not a new one. For example, it is one of the five action areas in the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion of 1986 (on the site of the World Health Organization). 

How do we approach the subject of healthy public policy?

Our approach reflects the belief that public policies are highly context-dependent and that, in public health, they often address complex problems. Generic, ready-made answers are then ill-adapted, unproductive, or worse, counterproductive. Instead of giving formulaic answers, we try to produce work that will advance individual and collective capacities for:

• Assessing the best available evidence, and using it,
• Understanding the context,
• Identifying actors and their reference groups,
• Reading the different argumentative frames,
• Navigating the policy sector,
• Thinking across sectors, and
• Collaborating effectively

Note 1.
This paper originally appeared in the Canadian Journal of Public Health, 76, supplement 1, 1985. It is available on this site with the permission of the Canadian Journal of Public Health.

Note 2.
Ibid. p.10.

Photo Credits:
1. Provided by the NCCPH

The production of the NCCHPP website has been made possible through a financial contribution from the Public Health Agency of Canada.