Research has shown the strongest evidence for improving health outcomes in the population is by strengthening primary care.

Canadians see a primary care provider at multiple points in life from well-baby visits to end-of-life planning. A primary care provider could be a family physician, nurse, dietitian or other trained health professional, and the first called when people have a health concern.

The McMaster University Department of Family Medicine is launching the David Braley Primary Care Research Collaborative, a research collective focused on advancing and strengthening primary care in Canada and across the globe through proactive research programs relevant to the issues of today.

“Research in primary care is critically important to improving health,” said David Price, professor and chair of the Department of Family Medicine. “When people have access to strong primary care, they can address a health concern before it leads to a trip to the hospital. So, not only does primary care keep people healthy, it saves health care dollars.”

Researchers, clinicians and staff in the department are engaged in practice-based research focused on building innovative systems of primary care. The team is working on initiatives to enhance the care that people receive, to improve access to health care particularly for people in greatest need and to change the way the next generation of physicians are trained.

Through the David Braley Primary Care Research Collaborative, the department will bring together researchers, clinicians, educators and partners to work on issues that will address the diverse needs of our community.

“By bringing people together, this collaborative will help to answer really important questions in primary care that will absolutely improve patient outcomes,” said Paul O’Byrne, dean and vice-president of McMaster’s Faculty of Health Sciences.

Capacity building and mentorship are key goals of the collaborative, says Dee Mangin, professor and associate chair of research for the department.

“Primary care clinicians ask questions every day,” she said. “We are constantly wondering how to provide the most effective treatment for a patient given their life context, or how to better educate our future family physicians. The collaborative aims to empower clinicians, educators and researchers to turn these wonderings into research that will answer those questions for all of us.”

The David Braley Primary Care Research Collaborative is launching with a $4 million investment, seeded by a $1 million donation from Hamilton businessman David Braley. This collaborative is the first of its kind in Canada, with the largest endowment supporting a research collaborative in primary care.

“David Braley has long been a supporter of primary care, and I would like to thank him for his generous support in establishing this collaborative”, said McMaster University President David Farrar.

Research studies illustrate the work of the collaborative include CP@clinic which brings paramedics regularly into subsidized housing to assess individuals’ health risks; TAPER which studies how to reduce unnecessary medications; a prison health research program regarding health care of incarcerated people; an Indigenous Teaching Through Art program to increase health professionals’ knowledge of Indigenous people; and Health TAPESTRY which has trained volunteers do home visits to improve the connection between health care teams and community resources.

The Department of Family Medicine includes the Divisions of Palliative Care and Emergency Medicine. The department operates three clinics in Hamilton: McMaster Family Practice, Stonechurch Family Health Centre and the Maternity Centre of Hamilton. The department’s residency program includes seven sites across Ontario, training over 200 family medicine residents each year as well as a number of enhanced skills positions. The research enterprise manages over $10 million in grant funding annually.