The Women’s Health Research Institute
Established in 2006 in Vancouver, British Columbia, the Women’s Health Research Institute (WHRI) is one of only three research institutes in Canada with an explicit focus on women’s health. We seek to enable women’s health researchers across the province to reach their highest potential in their critical work. We are passionate about the importance of women’s health research, recognizing that when women are healthy, all of society benefits.
In recent years, the WHRI has expanded its membership and, and in addition to living out its original function as the research arm of the BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre, it has a strong virtual footprint. With its membership totalling over 300 investigators, the WHRI engages research partners across the province to support, enhance, and champion women’s health research. We know that translating evidence into action is central to improving health and health care, so the WHRI has an important role to play in supporting knowledge translation (KT) initiatives.
The 2019–2024 Strategic Plan was developed based on extensive consultations with WHRI members, key stakeholders in the health research and education communities, patients, staff, Indigenous partners, and the WHRI scientific advisory committee. Our community‐engaged approach to creating the plan reflects our core commitment to inclusion and transparency in process and our desire to be an institute shaped by the needs and vision of our members and the communities we serve.
Vision, Mission, and Values
|Leading research: Better health for all women|
|To create new evidence‐based solutions that inform and transform the health and health care of all women|
|We are committed to encouraging excellence, promoting innovation, and advocating for a sustainable environment for women’s health research. The following core values underlie all aspects of the WHRI’s activities:
We strive to be equitable and inclusive in how we collaborate, in what we prioritize, and in all that we do. To achieve our goals our research respects, works alongside, collaborates with, and supports the health of women across the LGBTQIA2S+ spectrum.
Our long‐term goal is to become a national centre for innovation, care delivery models, and excellence in women’s health research. Four priorities guide the implementation of the WHRI’s 5‐year strategic plan:
- Increase Capacity to Catalyze New Women’s Health Research. We strive to build capacity for research by tackling some of the factors that limit growth. In order for women’s health research to thrive, we must increase funding, opportunities, mentorship, interest, and sustainability.
- Nurture Existing Relationships and Cultivate New Collaborations. Strong networks and collaborations are paramount to our success. We will continue to nurture our existing relationships while working to build new connections and partnerships in women’s health research.
- Increase and Promote Research Translation, Implementation, and Communication. Raising the profile, bringing evidence to action and energizing the conversation on the importance of women’s health research is pivotal to advancing the enterprise. We will continue to explore new ways to grow our communication strategies. We will also work to ensure that women’s health research is informed by women’s voices and flows back to women’s lives.
- Be a National Leader in Advancing Women’s Health Research. The WHRI aims to expand its provincial efforts through partnerships in order to become a recognized authority in women’s health research. We plan to lead from the West, with key partners in every province and territory.
Supporting Strategic Frameworks: Partners, Patients, Trainees, and KT
The WHRI has developed four strategic frameworks to guide the actualization of our Strategic Plan objectives and ensure intentionality in our approach:
- Strategic Framework for Partnership Engagement. This framework will guide and support our work nurturing existing partnerships while cultivating new collaborations. It will include a framework for how we seek out, form, and support partnerships.
- Strategic Framework for Patient Engagement. This framework will outline approaches to engagement in order to foster collaboration and increase integration of patient priorities in research. It will also explore ways of increasing capacity for patient‐engaged research, create collaboration opportunities, and seek to empower patients to engage in research partnerships.
- Strategic Framework for Trainees and Mentorship. This framework will aid the expansion of women’s health research capacity by guiding our efforts to support the next generation of women’s health scholars and addressing the critical need for mentorship in the field.
- Strategic Framework for Knowledge Translation. This framework will support member understanding of the full knowledge‐to‐action cycle. It will emphasize the importance of being both strategic and opportunistic about knowledge translation and implementation opportunities.
Alignment with PHSA Expanded Mandate
The PHSA is mandated to update provincial clinical policy to benefit patient care services. This aligns directly with the WHRI’s objective on knowledge translation. Recognizing that knowledge‐to‐action work supports researchers but is not limited to them, the WHRI’s strategic framework for knowledge translation will outline ways to identify skilled relationship builders, communicators, and systems thinkers. The PHSA is also responsible for the development of a digital health strategy. This aligns with the WHRI’s prioritization of digital health research. The WHRI has created a new Digital Health Research Manager role to survey relevant projects across BC. Once this overview has been completed, opportunities can be identified and supported.
Alignment with UBC Faculty of Medicine
The WHRI has a longstanding and excellent relationship with the Faculty of Medicine at UBC, and the WHRI’s mission, vision, and values align directly with the UBC Faculty of Medicine’s five‐year strategic plan. Partnership is a crucial ingredient in both plans. Opportunities for future collaborations have been identified in areas such as investigating sex and gender differences in key health conditions and understanding life course, aging, and the social determinants of health. The WHRI is ideally suited to inform these priority research areas from a women’s health perspective.
Alignment with UBC Strategic Plan
The core themes of UBC’s 10‐year strategic plan align with WHRI objectives. Both organizations are focused on collaboration and research excellence. Like UBC, the WHRI values research clusters and seeks to expand our network of researchers across disciplines. Both plans prioritize support for early career investigators and student research. Knowledge exchange is another shared strategy, with the WHRI focused on promoting the adoption of research into practice. UBC’s plan recognizes the need for public relevance and Indigenous engagement, which will be reflected in the WHRI’s efforts to more actively engage with patients and collaborate with partners, community members, and Elders to support key areas of Indigenous women’s health research.
Alignment with the SFU Faculty of Health Sciences
The WHRI is building collaborations and partnerships with the interdisciplinary Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS). WHRI’s and FHS’s mission, vision, and values align on issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion for women’s health research. The FHS Research Strategic Plan (2018‐2023) affirms a commitment to social justice and health equity and identifies key areas for future collaborations in key challenge areas from the perspective of women’s health research, including Indigenous Health, Infectious Diseases, Planetary Health, Mental Health and Substance Use, Health Systems and Policy, the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, Social Inequities, and Global Health. Opportunities are myriad for partnerships to enhance student learning.
Alignment with Simon Fraser University (SFU) Strategic Research Plan
The SFU Strategic Research Plan (SRP) builds on SFU’s vision of being a leading engaged university. The SRP elucidates SFU’s aspiration to be a world leader in knowledge mobilization, building on a strong foundation of fundamental and applied research. This aspiration is clearly aligned with the WHRI’s focus on promoting the adoption of research into practice. The SFU SRP sets out a number of challenge areas to focus on including supporting health across the lifespan and strengthening civil society by advancing justice, equity and social responsibility. Both SFU and the WHRI are moving forward with fostering collaboration and research excellence, both are committed to developing research clusters and expanding partnerships, and both are making efforts to more actively engage with patients and collaborate with partners, community members, and Elders to support key areas of Indigenous women’s health research.