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Measuring what matters to achieve health care equity: Dr. Sawatzky named Canada Research Chair

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Dr. Rick Sawatzky has been appointed a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Equitable People-Centred Health Measurement (EPHM) held at the Trinity Western University School of Nursing. Announced on March 13th alongside 230 other chairholders, Dr. Sawatzky will receive renewed support for his research program, which has been supported through a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair since 2013.

“I am very grateful for this support, which will go towards both research and training in order to equip the next generation of health researchers with the knowledge and expertise for advancing equitable approaches to people-centred health measurement,” said Dr. Sawatzky.

Dr. Rick Sawatzky, Advancing Health Program Head
for Patient-reported Outcomes

Dr. Sawatzky, Program Head for Patient-reported Outcomes at Advancing Health, aims to advance a new paradigm of health measurement. This approach, called equitable people-centred health measurement (EPHM), focuses on novel methods for equitably measuring diverse perspectives of health and health care. This involves using online health information platforms to tailor the measurements to individuals’ social and health circumstances. By using these platforms, diverse people will be able to share tailored information about their health and health care experiences with health care providers, leading to improved care that is informed by their unique situation.

“The EPHM research program is guided by the fundamental goal to advance equitable health care for all people,” explained Dr. Sawatzky. “This requires establishing inclusive approaches to measuring what matters to different people about their health care needs, outcomes, and experiences.”

The importance of people-centered health care

According to the World Health Organization, achieving equitable, people-centered health care is a societal priority. This requires tailoring health care services in response to the unique contexts and experiences of diverse people. To accomplish this, health measurements are needed that appropriately represent the diverse people’s perspectives of their health and health care experiences. This includes measurements of individuals’ symptoms, physical and mental health, and wellbeing, as well as their experience with the care they received.

“This means a shift from focusing on what works for most people to what works for everyone”

Dr. Rick Sawatzky

Dr. Sawatzky notes that these perceptions can only truly be measured from the perspective of the person receiving care. However, he says, current approaches to health measurement are often limited in their ability to meaningfully account for important social contexts and individual differences.

“These ‘one-sized-fits-all’ approaches can lead to measurement biases that cause the perspectives of some people to be ignored or misrepresented,” he said. “Rooted in social injustices, the resulting health inequities can cause some people to face greater health risks and to be more vulnerable than other people.”

Putting measurement into practice

Dr. Sawatzky’s research also involves establishing a learning alliance by which patients and health care providers work together with the research team to integrate EPHM into the health care for people who have chronic conditions.

“While methodological advancements in measurement are foundationally important, these approaches will only improve health equity if they are routinely applied to inform health care for all people,” he noted. “This is why formalized collaboration with patients, frontline care providers, and health care decision makers is so important.”

The research will establish an important foundation for developing widespread applications of the developed EPHM methodology, including measuring the importance of different health domains, tracking changes in people’s perceptions of their health over time, and accommodating multiple languages and functional abilities. Overall, the results from this research will serve as a springboard for advancing health equity by measuring what matters to diverse individuals and thereby informing people-centred health care.

“Throughout my career as a registered nurse, researcher, and educator, I have been motivated by a desire to find ways of reorienting the health care system,” said Dr. Sawatzky. “This means a shift from focusing on what works for most people to what works for everyone: people-centred care that pays attention to those whose needs are often not known, or are misrepresented, and are consequently not being met.”

For information about research activities, publications, and knowledge translation materials by Dr. Sawatzky and his team, go to

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