SOURCE: University of Calgary

University of Calgary

May 14, 2015 14:00 ET

University of Calgary partners with the World Health Organization

Research supports WHO programs

CALGARY, AB--(Marketwired - May 14, 2015) - A new partnership will help researchers and physicians around the world better track and monitor disease and mortality. The University of Calgary's O'Brien Institute for Public Health at the Cumming School of Medicine has been officially designated a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Classification, Terminology and Standards. It becomes the third academic member of a WHO network that includes the Mayo Clinic and Stanford University.

The three institutions will collaborate and advise the WHO's International Classification of Diseases (ICD) standard, which shapes how health professionals, scientists and policy makers around the world communicate and share information for better health.

"Our international partnership with the WHO demonstrates our strength as a research institution," says John Reynolds, PhD, associate vice-president (research) University of Calgary. "The work being done at the collaborating centre will impact the health care of Canadians and others around the globe as it will provide real-world knowledge translation."

The ICD standard aims to develop and refine a common international language on diseases, enabling effective and accurate storage and retrieval of disease information by frontline health-care workers. It also aims to better inform policy makers on the spread, risk and prevention of disease, while providing a tool to track quality of care.

As part of this, the collaborating centre will also review existing classifications to ensure mortality rates from specific diseases such as Ebola all use a consistent code. This will help track mortality from epidemics.

"Canadians need better data for better decision making and better health care," says Dr. Hude Quan, director of the Calgary WHO Collaborating Centre. "Classification, terminology, standards of diseases and causes of death are critical for collecting meaningful and powerful big data. Without the standardized classification, we are collecting incomparable information internationally."

To mark the occasion, Dr. Bedirhan Üstün, WHO delegate and head of the WHO's International Classification of Diseases, will present the University of Calgary's O'Brien Institute with a WHO plaque.

"Creating international standards for better health information is a very challenging task," says Üstün. "Bringing together different users to share the same meaning for what a disease is, how you diagnose it and how you treat it is very complex. In addition, all this information has to be computerized in the 21st century so that both the computers and the humans understand it. The best guidance to achieve the international standards is to apply the latest and most accurate scientific information on health in these standards. If this is achieved then you can deliver better care for individuals and populations."

The partnership will have an initial commitment of five years, which will include testing a new version of the ICD for its usability, accuracy and reliability.

"The University of Calgary's O'Brien Institute is a center of excellence for the WHO because it not only shares this vision, but it has also been one of the world's pioneering institutions to implement it," says Üstün.

WHO collaborating centres are institutions such as research institutes, or parts of universities or academies designated by the director-general to carry out activities in support of the WHO's programs. There are over 700 WHO collaborating centres in over 80 countries working on projects dedicated to nursing, occupational health, communicable diseases, nutrition, mental health, chronic diseases and health technologies. The first WHO collaborating centre was designated in 1948.

About the University of Calgary
The University of Calgary is a leading Canadian university located in the nation's most enterprising city. The university has a clear strategic direction to become one of Canada's top five research universities by 2016, where research and innovative teaching go hand in hand, and where we fully engage the communities we both serve and lead. This strategy is called Eyes High, inspired by the university's Gaelic motto, which translates as "I will lift up my eyes."

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About the Cumming School of Medicine
The University of Calgary's Cumming School of Medicine is a leader in health research, with an international reputation for excellence and innovation in health care research and education. We train the next generation of health practitioners, and take new treatments and diagnostic techniques from the laboratory to the patient, always keeping in mind our goal: Creating the Future of Health.

The medical school was created in 1967 and on June 17, 2014, was formally named the Cumming School of Medicine in recognition of Geoffrey Cumming's generous gift to the university.

For more information, visit, or follow us on Twitter@UCalgaryMed.

About the O'Brien Institute for Public Health
With more than 400 members, the University of Calgary's O'Brien Institute for Public Health is a virtual, interdisciplinary network integrating research groups, academics, health professionals, community leaders, and policy makers across the health continuum to catalyze excellence in population health and health services research. Together, O'Brien Institute members strive to produce new knowledge and evidence to inform, and help shape, public health agencies and health systems for the benefit of local, national and global communities - achieving the institute's vision of Better Health and Health Care.

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