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Canada should play a more targeted role in global health research: report

An expert panel has suggested Canada could have a greater impact in areas like Sub-Saharan Africa by focusing on five areas where its research is strongest.

Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images/Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images

A new global health report suggests Canada could have a greater impact in the developing world by focusing on five areas where its research is strongest, including indigenous health.

The year-long assessment done by the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences concluded there is a strong rationale for Canada to play a more strategic role in global health, while recognizing the scale of humanitarian needs.

"It's not right that a woman in Sub-Saharan Africa is 100 times more likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth as my wife or lots of other Canadians. It's not fair that a child in Sub-Saharan Africa is more than 10 times more likely to die under five as a child in Canada," said Peter Singer, chair of the expert panel and foreign secretary of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, a not-for-profit organization. "To tackle inequities like that, you really need to innovate."

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The report, released at the Global Health conference in Montreal on Sunday, identified five areas where Canada could have significant impact on global health, including public health programs, community-based primary health care, partnerships with developing countries in research/education and global health innovation.

"Investments in global health can improve health outcomes, as well as support and enhance national security and provide economic opportunity for Canada and developing countries," said Dr. Singer.

Jeff Reading, professor and director at the Centre for Aboriginal Health Research at the University of Victoria, said Canada is a leader in aboriginal and circumpolar global health research – expertise it can leverage to make a difference in vulnerable communities in this country and globally.

"There's a lot of economic interest in the north these days, with various opportunities for resource exploitation and development," said Prof. Reading. "... Sustainable economic development isn't really sustainable if the people who live there aren't healthy."

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