Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 110, Issue 3, pp 317–322 | Cite as

Why public health matters today and tomorrow: the role of applied public health research

  • Lindsay McLarenEmail author
  • Paula Braitstein
  • David Buckeridge
  • Damien Contandriopoulos
  • Maria I. Creatore
  • Guy Faulkner
  • David Hammond
  • Steven J. Hoffman
  • Yan Kestens
  • Scott Leatherdale
  • Jonathan McGavock
  • Wendy V. Norman
  • Candace Nykiforuk
  • Valéry Ridde
  • Janet Smylie
Special Section on Why Public Health Matters Today: Commentary


Public health is critical to a healthy, fair, and sustainable society. Realizing this vision requires imagining a public health community that can maintain its foundational core while adapting and responding to contemporary imperatives such as entrenched inequities and ecological degradation. In this commentary, we reflect on what tomorrow’s public health might look like, from the point of view of our collective experiences as researchers in Canada who are part of an Applied Public Health Chairs program designed to support “innovative population health research that improves health equity for citizens in Canada and around the world.” We view applied public health research as sitting at the intersection of core principles for population and public health: namely sustainability, equity, and effectiveness. We further identify three attributes of a robust applied public health research community that we argue are necessary to permit contribution to those principles: researcher autonomy, sustained intersectoral research capacity, and a critical perspective on the research-practice-policy interface. Our intention is to catalyze further discussion and debate about why and how public health matters today and tomorrow, and the role of applied public health research therein.


Public health Population health Applied research Policy Sustainability Equity 


La santé publique est essentielle à une société saine, juste et durable. Pour donner forme à cette vision, il faut imaginer une communauté de la santé publique capable de préserver ses valeurs fondamentales tout en s’adaptant et en réagissant aux impératifs du moment, comme les inégalités persistantes et la dégradation de l’environnement. Dans notre commentaire, nous esquissons un portrait possible de la santé publique de demain en partant de notre expérience collective de chercheurs d’un programme canadien de chaires en santé publique appliquée qui visent à appuyer « la recherche innovatrice sur la santé de la population en vue d’améliorer l’équité en santé au Canada et ailleurs ». Nous considérons la recherche appliquée en santé publique comme se trouvant à la croisée des principes fondamentaux de la santé publique et des populations, à savoir : la durabilité, l’équité et l’efficacité. Nous définissons aussi les trois attributs d’une solide communauté de recherche appliquée en santé publique nécessaires selon nous au respect de ces principes : l’autonomie des chercheurs, une capacité de recherche intersectorielle soutenue et une perspective critique de l’interface entre la recherche, la pratique et les politiques. Nous voulons susciter des discussions et des débats approfondis sur l’importance de la santé publique pour aujourd’hui et pour demain et sur le rôle de la recherche appliquée en santé publique.


Santé publique Santé des populations Recherche appliquée Politique (principe) Viabilité Équité 



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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lindsay McLaren
    • 1
    Email author
  • Paula Braitstein
    • 2
  • David Buckeridge
    • 3
  • Damien Contandriopoulos
    • 4
  • Maria I. Creatore
    • 5
  • Guy Faulkner
    • 6
  • David Hammond
    • 7
  • Steven J. Hoffman
    • 8
  • Yan Kestens
    • 9
  • Scott Leatherdale
    • 7
  • Jonathan McGavock
    • 10
  • Wendy V. Norman
    • 11
  • Candace Nykiforuk
    • 12
  • Valéry Ridde
    • 13
    • 14
  • Janet Smylie
    • 2
  1. 1.University of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  2. 2.University of TorontoTorontoCanada
  3. 3.McGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  4. 4.University of VictoriaVictoriaCanada
  5. 5.CIHR Institute of Population & Public Health and University of TorontoTorontoCanada
  6. 6.University of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  7. 7.University of WaterlooWaterlooCanada
  8. 8.CIHR Institute of Population & Public Health and York UniversityTorontoCanada
  9. 9.Université de MontréalMontrealCanada
  10. 10.University of Manitoba and the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of ManitobaWinnipegCanada
  11. 11.University of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  12. 12.University of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  13. 13.IRD (French Institute For Research on Sustainable Development), CEPED (IRD-Université Paris Descartes), ERL INSERM SAGESUDUniversité Paris Sorbonne CitésParisFrance
  14. 14.University of Montreal Public Health Research Institute (IRSPUM)MontrealCanada

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