The aim of the Population Health Intervention Research Initiative for Canada (PHIRIC) is to build capacity to increase the quantity, quality and use of population health intervention research. But what capacity is required, and how should capacity be created? There may be relevant lessons from the Canadian Heart Health Initiative (CHHI), a 20-year initiative (1986-2006) that was groundbreaking in its attempt to bring together researchers and public health leaders (from government and non-government organizations) to jointly plan, conduct and act on relevant evidence. The present study focused on what enabled and constrained the ability to fund, conduct and use science in the CHHI.
Guided by a provisional capacity-building framework, a two-step methodology was used: a CHHI document analysis followed by consultation with CHHI leaders to refine and confirm emerging findings.
A few well-positioned, visionary people conceived of the CHHI as a long-term, coherent initiative that would have impact, and they then created an environment to enable this to become reality. To achieve the vision, capacity was needed to a) align science (research and evaluation) with public health policy and program priorities, including the capacity to study "natural experiments" and b) build meaningful partnerships within and across sectors.
There is now an opportunity to apply lessons from the CHHI in planning PHIRIC.