McMaster receives $1M to lead COVID-19 evidence network

The photo is of a smiling man wearing glasses, a white shirt and a suit jacket

John Lavis, who will lead the COVID-END network, is the director of the McMaster Health Forum.

To ensure decision-makers have access to the best COVID-19 science in a timely manner, the federal government is investing $1 million to support the COVID-19 Evidence Network to support Decision-makers (COVID-END) hosted at McMaster University.

The network, led by John Lavis, director of the McMaster Health Forum, will bring together experts to collaborate and rapidly synthesize the best available evidence across the full breadth of Canada’s COVID-19 pandemic response.

By providing timely access to the latest research on public health measures, clinical management, health-system arrangements, and economic and social impacts, policymakers will better understand the impact that these measures have on Canadians’ health and safety.

In announcing the grant, federal Minister of Health Patty Hajdu, said: “Our response to COVID-19 has always been informed by the latest science and evidence, which we get from our internationally-respected Canadian researchers.

“Through the COVID-19 Evidence Network, our best and brightest will work with provincial, national and international partners so that decision-makers get the information we need to keep Canadians safe throughout the next phase of this pandemic. Through this network, we will ensure that Canada continues to be a global leader in COVID-19 research.”

Lavis, who is also a McMaster professor of health research methods, evidence and impact, said the network will work with Canadian and international partners to better develop and coordinate groundbreaking research on COVID-19, while reducing the duplication of efforts so experts can focus on the latest research and developments to keep Canadians safe.

“The COVID-19 Evidence Network will use a highly collaborative approach to rapidly synthesizing the best available evidence about key COVID-19 topics – in timelines ranging from four hours to 10 days – in response to requests from decision-makers,” said Lavis.

“The network will identify emergent issues where synthesized evidence is needed as well as profile the best available evidence syntheses on all key COVID-19 decisions. We will work with both domestic and international partners to reduce duplication and enhance coordination in the COVID-19 evidence response.”

The Canadian government is supporting the COVID-19 Evidence Network through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) so they may provide the latest evidence to decision-makers at the federal, provincial, and territorial levels.

Formation of the network also recognizes that while the arrival of vaccines brings hope for the eventual ending of the pandemic, there are still critical knowledge gaps that must be filled to further support ongoing decision-making as we respond to this virus to keep Canadians safe.

“The COVID-19 Evidence Network will focus on synthesizing the evidence we already have and identifying evidence gaps that exist,” said Michael Strong, CIHR president.

“The network will use a highly collaborative approach to rapidly synthesizing evidence for improved decision-making. To ensure sensitivity to how COVID-19 and COVID-19 responses can affect different groups in different ways, the network will apply principles of equity, diversity and inclusion in all of its work.”

Co-leads with Lavis on the network are Jeremy Grimshaw from the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Andrea Tricco of the SPOR Evidence Alliance, which is based at St. Michael’s Hospital of Unity Health Toronto, and Nancy Santesso of Cochrane Canada, based at McMaster University. Lavis also holds the Canada Research Chair in Evidence-informed Health Systems.

The network will build on nine months of experiences in preparing COVID-19 rapid evidence profiles and on many years of experience with the SPOR Evidence Alliance and Cochrane Canada in preparing rapid evidence syntheses, said Lavis.

The project will maintain a publicly available inventory of the best evidence syntheses for COVID-19 decisions to ensure that Canadian decision-makers have the most updated science available when needed, and will establish a Canadian panel to complement its existing global horizon-scanning panel that monitors emerging issues where evidence syntheses are needed.

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