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New database created to identify unique health characteristics in Northern Ontario

Doctors and other health care professionals can use the data to better understand health care issues among Northerners
081121_LG_NOSM research database PHOTO-1 Sized
Dr. Barb Zelek, founder of NORTHH, NOSM’s Division Head of Clinical Sciences, and a rural generalist family physician practising in Marathon.

A new research tool aimed at studying the unique health characteristics of Northern Ontario communities has been launched by NOSM University (Northern Ontario School of Medicine).

The team from NOSM University is using anonymous medical records, community and population data that will be collected and analyzed to identify prevalent health concerns and how to make improvements in health care. 

The database will be provided to Northern Ontario primary care researchers, clinicians and organizations, said a news release from the university.

The project is being co-ordinated by a new initiative called NORTHH, NOSM’s Research Toward Health Hub. NORTHH is housed within the university's new Centre for Social Accountability.  

It is Northern Ontario's first primary health care database and network. A combined total of over $223,000 in funding was received to support NORTHH including contributions from the Northern Ontario Academic Medicine Association Alternate Funding Plan, Inspire Primary Health Care, and the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The university said NORTHH is the first practice-based learning and research network to offer unique Northern Ontario health primary-care, population-based datasets. It will also prioritize Indigenous data sovereignty.

Dr. Barb Zelek, a family physician in Marathon, Ontario is the founder of NORTHH, and NOSM’s Division Head of Clinical Sciences.

“For Northern doctors and primary-care researchers, it means accessing a Northern primary care database to help answer your clinical and research questions and an opportunity to do applicable Northern-focused research to improve health outcomes in the North,” said Dr. Zelek. 

Doctors and primary-care providers are being encouraged to join the NORTHH network with a two way approach. They can access the database to support their own practices and they can also contribute new data.

The information will also help identify different health concerns that exist in different parts of the North.

"This research will help doctors and primary-care providers make informed decisions to improve care for the people they serve,” said Dr. Erin Cameron, director of the NOSM Centre for Social Accountability. 

The NORTHH research is also seen as a valuable data tool that can be used by NOSM university to help its medical students better understand, identify and treat medical conditions that will be identified.

Physicians and researchers can learn more about the database during a presentation that will take place on Tuesday Nov. 16 from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Contact for more details.