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Research council says federal government's move to axe long consensus form is a serious mistake

July 29, 2010 Toronto

Ontario’s Council of Health Services Research Directors (COHSRD) says that the move by the Federal Government to replace the Canadian Census long form with a voluntary survey will compromise census data and undermine research into the quality and safety of the Ontario health care system.

“The Census long form data provide the under-pinning for a lot of important research that is done across Canada. The health services research centers in Ontario evaluate many aspects of the delivery of health care in this Province. We carry out this work in an independent fashion, which is in the best interest of the Ontario public. Without the full Census data we cannot examine a range of factors relating to delivery of health services particularly to marginalized and under-served communities. These are the groups who will be severely under-represented if a voluntary survey replaces the current Census form,” says Professor Larry Chambers, the chair of COHSRD, and president of the Elisabeth Bruyere Research Institute, commented:

“Examples of the types of studies that will be compromised in future include those that have examined the cardiovascular health of immigrants, estimated the future burden of diabetes across Canada and mapped the demand for community services for seniors in Ontario. The Health Quality Councils throughout Canada also rely on Census-derived data to examine the adequacy of care to disadvantaged community groups. Research into the health of First Nations Inuit and Métis will also be compromised by this change. The Census data are invaluable in the development of social policy and programs to target very specific needs. You cannot put a dollar value on the critical importance of that data. It is also important to know that the data are kept completely anonymous and our data privacy and security standards are among the best in the world,” says Dr David Henry, CEO of the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES), a member of the COHSRD.

The Conservatives announced that they would scrap Canada's long-form census in 2011 and replace it with a voluntary survey. The short-form census remains mandatory. COHSRD along with a number of other organizations and experts insist not having the long consensus form will destroy the statistical backbone of municipalities, social programs, community organizations and private businesses that touch nearly every aspect of the lives of the more than 34-million Canadians.

COHSRD comprises 29 research institutes, centres and networks from across Ontario that create new knowledge on how social factors, financing systems, organizational structures and processes, health technologies and personal behaviours affect access to health care, quality and cost of health care in Ontario.

ICES is an independent, non-profit organization that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of health care issues. Our unbiased evidence provides measures of health system performance, a clearer understanding of the shifting health care needs of Ontarians, and a stimulus for discussion of practical solutions to optimize scarce resources. ICES knowledge is highly regarded in Canada and abroad, and is widely used by government, hospitals, planners, and practitioners to make decisions about care delivery and to develop policy.

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