Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Study protocol

Reducing health inequities: the contribution of core public health services in BC

Bernadette (Bernie) Pauly1*, Marjorie MacDonald2, Trevor Hancock3, Wanda Martin2 and Kathleen Perkin4

Author affiliations

1 School of Nursing and, Centre for Addictions Research of BC (CARBC), University of Victoria, Box 1700 STN CSC, Victoria, BC V8W 2Y2, Canada

2 School of Nursing, University of Victoria, Box 1700 STN CSC, Victoria, BC V8W 2Y2, Canada

3 School of Public Health and Social Policy, University of Victoria, Box 1700 STN CSC, Victoria, BC V8W 2Y2, Canada

4 Centre for Addictions Research of BC, University of Victoria, Box 1700 STN CSC, Victoria, BC V8W 2Y2, Canada

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Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2013, 13:550  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-550

Published: 6 June 2013



Within Canada, many public health leaders have long identified the importance of improving the health of all Canadians especially those who face social and economic disadvantages. Future improvements in population health will be achieved by promoting health equity through action on the social determinants of health. Many Canadian documents, endorsed by government and public health leaders, describe commitments to improving overall health and promoting health equity. Public health has an important role to play in strengthening action on the social determinants and promoting health equity. Currently, public health services in British Columbia are being reorganized and there is a unique opportunity to study the application of an equity lens in public health and the contribution of public health to reducing health inequities. Where applicable, we have chosen mental health promotion, prevention of mental disorders and harms of substance use as exemplars within which to examine specific application of an equity lens.


This research protocol is informed by three theoretical perspectives: complex adaptive systems, critical social justice, and intersectionality. In this program of research, there are four inter-related research projects with an emphasis on both integrated and end of grant knowledge translation. Within an overarching collaborative and participatory approach to research, we use a multiple comparative case study research design and are incorporating multiple methods such as discourse analysis, situational analysis, social network analysis, concept mapping and grounded theory.


An important aim of this work is to help ensure a strong public health system that supports public health providers to have the knowledge, skills, tools and resources to undertake the promotion of health equity. This research will contribute to increasing the effectiveness and contributions of public health in reducing unfair and inequitable differences in health among population groups. As a collaborative effort between public health practitioners/decision makers and university researchers, this research will provide important understanding and insights about the implementation of the changes in public health with a specific focus on health equity, the promotion of mental health and the prevention of harms of substance use.

Health inequities; Health equity tools and frameworks; Public health services; Population health interventions; Public health policy; Determinants of health; Ethics and values; Complex adaptive systems; Intersectionality; Critical social justice