Strategies to advance and support family medicine researchers in Canada: Lessons from our first five year “Blueprint”
While Canada’s 34,000 family physicians and their teams deliver a substantial proportion of healthcare nationally, family medicine researcher support and research proposals received less than 1% of Canadian government health research funding in 2010. The College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC), Section of Researchers (SOR) engaged in a strategic planning process to explore initiatives to advance family medicine research, creating a “Blueprint” in 2012. We have completed a process evaluation on the first Blueprint, and are preparing for development of our “Blueprint 2.0”.
The Primary Healthcare Research Unit (PHRU) of Memorial University, Canada, led the external review. A Logic Model and Evaluation Framework was developed to map outcomes to the Blueprint goals. A mixed-methods approach was used and data was collected through several methods: document review, key informant interviews, and surveys of key audiences (SOR and CFPC members, CFPC provincial chapters and partners, academic institutions) from March to October 2016.
The 5 pillars of the Blueprint plan were addressed through the formation of 5 action groups: Research Community of Practice (RCOP); Action Group for Advocacy in Research (AGAR); Practiced-Based Research Networks (PBRN); Preparation for Research Education/Excitement/Enhancement/ Engagement in Practice (PREEP); and Family Medicine Forum Research Committee (FMF-RC). PREEP succeeded to improve integration between the Education and Research Departments of CFPC, and to increase the profile of research (and other scholarly work) in the accreditation processes of family medicine training programs nationally. Our goals to double membership (to 1500) and actively engage more members in the work of the section were achieved. We initiated and strengthened many important collaborations with groups external to the CFPC, such as Canadian academic institutions and national and international primary care research groups and international family medicine counterparts. We now work more closely with our national journal, The Canadian Family Physician, and with CFPC committees such as those advancing Residency curriculum, practice delivery models, accreditation, and member meetings planning. A major success was the development of the Family Medicine Innovations in Research and Education Day, a joint initiative between the Departments of Research and Education presented at the Family Medicine Forum (FMF). Challenges remain in communication with members and to achieve significant funding for primary care research and researcher training.
Successes of the Blueprint span across all five strategic pillars, with notable membership growth and partnerships made both internal and external to the CFPC to further family medicine research, researcher education and to advocate for the value of family medicine research. Limited human and financial resources may have impacted the SOR’s ability to achieve all the Blueprint activities, notably with member communications and impact on research funding allocation. Recommendations are made for the next iteration of the Blueprint.