Observatoire montréalais

About OMISS


BACKGROUND

In 1998, the Director of the Montreal Public Health Department published his first annual report entitled Social Inequalities in Health . The report's conclusions were clear: the social and economic environment of low-income neighbourhoods had an extremely negative impact on the population's health, including infant mortality, lung cancer, fertility rates, psychological distress, and suicide.

The Public Health Department had already implemented a number of programmes to alleviate the impact of poverty on infants, street youth, the elderly, etc. Although well-designed, these programmes had no impact on the economic environment, a major health determinant. An upstream action was essential but the components of an effective strategy had not been identified.

No progress could be made without additional information, and research and development were deemed essential. However, the research questions were diverse and revolved around local financing, fiscal issues, and urban planning. None of the researchers with expertise in these fields worked at the Public Health Department and public health professionals often did not know them. Moreover, the researchers were not necessarily aware of the possible connections between their work and public health. For example, researchers studying by chance the relationship between water fees and environment protection found out incidentally that poor people would reduce their water consumption for personal hygiene if water fees were based on utilisation. It was not possible to recruit these professionals as their backgrounds were extremely varied and the Public Health Department was unable to meet their need to share knowledge with peers. However, effective collaborations with public health professionals could be envisaged to design research projects.

Consequently, a proposal was made to establish a body that would bring together Montréal university researchers and the Public Health Department, to promote and support public health interventions targeting poverty. OMISS, or the Observatoire montréalais des inégalités sociales et de la santé, is this organisation. OMISS would also provide a link between researchers and decision makers.

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