CBPHC overview

What is community-based primary health care?

As the first and most frequent point of contact with the health system for most Canadians, Community-Based Primary Health Care (CBPHC) is at the heart of our country's health system. CBPHC is the gateway which connects Canadians to the care they need to support optimal health and help citizens lead healthier and active lifestyles in their neighborhoods.

CBPHC covers a range of services across the continuum of care –primary prevention (including public health) and primary care services from health promotion and disease prevention, chronic disease diagnosis, treatment and management to rehabilitation support, home care and end-of-life care.

CBPHC research is all about helping people get the care (including prevention) they need. It is about improving access to services. It is about engaging patients as partners in their own care. It is about finding innovative new models to deliver better care. It is about using the very best research evidence available to transform our health care system, for the benefit of people and patients.

Who is involved in community-based primary health care?

CBPHC follows an integrated interprofessional and inter-disciplinary care model that relies on the collaboration of many providers to meet the dynamic health needs of Canadians. These include nurses and physicians to dietitians, social workers and counselors. These professionals contribute towards health improvements by putting people and patients first.

Patients, their families, in addition to other stakeholders such as researchers, health care professionals, policy-makers, health system managers, and partners need to be engaged in CBPHC.

Where does community-based primary health care take place?

CBPHC exists everywhere that Canadians live, work and play; across neighbourhoods, towns and cities. School, work, home and community centres are effective examples of CBPHC settings, alongside customary clinics and health centres. Ensuring local access to appropriate health services across Canada guarantees healthier outcomes and communities.

Objectives and funding tools

The government of Canada launched a CIHR-led Roadmap Signature Initiative to fund research that supports the delivery of high-quality CBPHC across Canada in January 2012. Co-led by the CIHR Institutes of Health Services and Policy Research and Population and Public Health, this Signature Initiative supports researchers to conduct original research on innovative models of care delivery, build capacity for research excellence and translate evidence for uptake into practice and policy. It will achieve this through two major funding tools:

  1. CBPHC Innovation Team Grants support inter-disciplinary, cross-jurisdictional teams of researchers and decision-makers to conduct excellent research and provide superior research training and mentorship across two key research priorities:
    • Access for Vulnerable Populations
    • Chronic Disease Prevention and Management
  2. The Network in Primary and Integrated Health Care Innovations is a key part of Canada’s Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR) and the CBPHC Signature Initiative. This SPOR Network will support evidence-informed transformation and delivery of more cost-effective and integrated health care to improve clinical, population health, health equity, and health system outcomes. For more information about the Network, its governance and network member requirements, please see the Network Development Funds funding opportunity.

  3. CBPHC Salary Awards
    To enable innovation, we need to develop research capacity and leadership for transformative change in community-based primary health care. IPPH and IHSPR are investing in new investigators and applied public health chairs.


CIHR works in partnership with the following organizations to make the initiative a success:

  • Government Agencies and Departments
  • International Funding Agencies
  • National Alliance of Provincial Health Research Organizations (NAPHRO)
  • Not-for-Profit / Voluntary Sector
  • Professional Organizations

Partner engagement has helped to: broaden the reach of the initiative; ensure the initiative addresses key priorities; facilitate access to networks and resources; increase the likelihood of successful dissemination and utilization of research; and help to ensure the initiative contributes to meaningful improvements in primary healthcare delivery.

Transformative impact

Despite an investment of approximately 190 billion dollars per year in health care, Canada is falling behind other industrialized nations in obtaining value for its investment. Canada ranks fifth or last in performance on safety, quality, equity, and efficiency measures among six comparator nations who are making an equivalent investment in health care.1

The antiquated hospital-centric care delivery model of the last century is no longer appropriate to address today's urgent health needs. Moreover, the symptoms that flag the need for transformation are evident: high rates of emergency department visits for conditions that are better managed in primary healthcare; poor access to timely first line health services; social, cultural and environmental conditions that make unhealthy lifestyle choices the easier choices; and higher rates of morbidity and mortality for vulnerable subgroups of the population. All of these symptoms point to an urgent need for transformative change in healthcare delivery.

The transformative Community-based Primary Healthcare (CBPHC) Signature Initiative comprises three foundational components needed to establish the conditions for innovation and transformative change in CBPHC: Innovation Teams, a National CBPHC Network and personnel awards in CBPHC.


Footnote 1

Calculated by the Commonwealth Fund based on the Commonwealth Fund 2004 and 2005 International Health Policy Surveys, the 2006 Commonwealth Fund International Survey of Primary Care Physicians, and the Commonwealth Fund Commission on a High Performance Health System National Scorecard.


Date modified: