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Medical Education

Social Accountability Initiatives Database

What are Canadian medical schools doing to meet the needs of their communities?

Medical schools have been engaged for some time in activities that would meet the definition of "social accountability" as defined by the World Health Organization but this work has not been explicitly shown. As a result the AFMC Working Group on Social Accountability felt it important that AFMC's Social Accountability Initiatives (SAI) include development of an enduring searchable database of such activities to be available on AFMC's website.

Why a searchable inventory of Canadian medical faculties' SAI?

  • To acknowledge that medical schools are responsive to the needs of the community;
  • To raise awareness of the role of the medical schools in meeting the needs of the community amongst the various publics; and
  • To stimulate and support collaborative activities across the medical schools.

An informal survey of participants at the symposium “Social Accountability of Canadian Medical Schools” held during the 2003 annual meeting began the process of collecting information on these activities. Subsequently an Inventory Working Group, under the leadership of Dr. Alan Neville, McMaster University, was established to formalize the ongoing collection of such information adapting the framework developed by the WHO in Defining and Measuring the Social Accountability of Medical Schools (WHO, 1995).

FRAMEWORK USED: The framework adopted for assessing the activities as socially accountable, and thus to be included in the inventory, recognizes the three domains that constitute the traditional roles of medical schools, namely education, research and service, and the four values of relevance, quality, cost-effectiveness and equity. The type of activity may be categorized as relating to medical expertise, community engagement, interprofessional collaboration, health advocacy and professionalism. These activities may be at various stages: planning, underway or completed or have been evaluated for their impact on the health of the population served. In addition, the inventory seeks to identify whether the activity was initiated by faculty or students. Recently it was decided to enrich the search capability of the database by also categorizing the activities by themes and sub-themes. As well searches may be performed using “key words”.

Each school was initially invited to submit five “socially accountable” activities for this inventory. As of October 2005 81 projects make up this inventory. It is intended that this inventory database will be updated with new initiatives or revisions to previous submissions, on a regular basis. The database will allow identification of all activities submitted by each individual medical school, and facilitate searching by themes, by type of activity, by value(s) underlying the activity and by initiator of the activity. Also when so authorized, contact information for an activity is available so that more details may be obtained and/or interest in collaboration generated.