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Article of the Year for Canadian health policy research

Toronto, May 24, 2017

By Geoff Koehler

Tara Gomes
Tara Gomes

A research paper from St. Michael’s Hospital’s Tara Gomes and her collaborators received the 2017 Article of the Year from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Institute of Health Services and Policy Research.

The award recognizes published research in a peer-reviewed journal that significantly contributed to the advancement of health services and policy research in Canada.

“Deaths from prescription opioids have increased dramatically but Canada does not have nationwide systems in place to monitor this growing public health crisis,” said Gomes, who was lead author on the study and is Scientific Lead of The Ontario Drug Policy Research Network — based at St. Michael’s Hospital. “In the study, we developed algorithms that can be used with existing data to help researchers and policy-makers better quantify opioid-related deaths nationally.”

The article, Sensitivity and specificity of administrative mortality data for identifying prescription opioid-related deaths, used linked data at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences. The researchers showed that when applying one formula to Ontario’s vital statistics data for 2010, they were able to accurately identify 75 per cent of opioid-related deaths.

“From Ontario coroners' data, we identified all prescription opioid-related deaths that occurred between Jan. 31, 2003, and Dec. 31, 2010,” said Emilie Gladstone, who was first author of the paper. “We then tested five different algorithms in the vital statistics database and selected the one with the highest sensitivity that was best able to accurately identify opioid-related deaths.”

Gomes said that without specific systems for monitoring prescription opioid-related deaths in Canada, we needed an alternative. The paper showed that national vital statistics can be used to study prescription opioid-related mortality with considerable accuracy in the absence of more sophisticated surveillance systems, and may inform the implementation of national surveillance and monitoring strategies.

“I was very pleased to learn that this article had been selected,” said Dr. Robyn Tamblyn, Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Health Services and Policy Research (IHSPR). “I congratulate the co-winners, Tara Gomes and Emilie Gladstone, on this recognition of their work. With this award, IHSPR acknowledges the excellence and potential impact of this article as it is both timely and relevant to Canada’s opioid crisis.”

The 2017 Article of the Year Award was presented to Gomes and Gladstone in Toronto at The Canadian Association for Health Services and Policy Research’s conference on Friday, May 26, 2017.

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in more than 29 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, and care of the homeless are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Center, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.