Continuing the conversation on social determinants of health data standards for Canada

Continuing the conversation on social determinants of health data standards for Canada

By Francis Lau, Ph.D., FCAHS

In April 2021, I posted an article on the status of social determinants of health (SDOH) data standards in EHRs. My intent was to highlight the need to improve the definition, collection, and use of SDOH data in EHRs by health organizations and provide examples of recent SDOH standards-related initiatives in Canada and the United States.

In that article, I also mentioned the formation of a Canadian SDOH Working Group to examine SDOH issues in Canadian digital health systems. Indeed, the Infoway SDOH Working Group was launched in June 2021, co-led by Dr. Marcy Antonio (University of Michigan) and Dr. Annalijn Conklin (UBC) with the support of Canada Health Infoway. Since last fall, the group has been meeting monthly, examining critical SDOH issues such as intersectionality, the strength-based approach, and screening tools for racism and discrimination.

As part of this initial launch, our school co-hosted a half-day, virtual mini-conference event on May 19, 2021, with Infoway and CIHI on SDOH data standards in EHRs. Three seasoned practice leaders were invited to share their latest SDOH work and experiences: Julie Stratton (CIHI), Dr. Andrew Pinto (University of Toronto), and Dr. Sarah DeSilvey (University of Vermont). The mini-conference was part of a 2.5-day virtual, public workshop in the Graduate Certificate in Health Terminology Standards program. Overall, the event was well-received, with 100+ virtual participants in each session. The YouTube recordings for the three sessions can be found below:

As part of the school’s Graduate Certificate in Health Terminologies, we will be hosting another half-day virtual mini-conference this May to continue the conversation on SDOH data standards. We are also planning a second half-day event to review certain Canadian health information exchange standards, approaches, and initiatives. More details will be forthcoming—stay tuned.

Want to Become a Certified Terminology Standards Specialist (CTSS)?

The UVic Graduate Certificate in Health Terminology Standards is now accepting applications for its fall 2022 cohort. Applicants need to have a baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution. Considerations may be given to those without a degree but with considerable, relevant work experience. The application deadline is June 1 for the September 2022 entry.

Join us for a half-hour online information session in March to learn more about this program. For more information, contact Dr. Francis Lau at [email protected] or visit

Francis Lau Ph.D., FCAHS, is a professor at the School of Health Information Science, University of Victoria. He is on Twitter @francislau1.

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