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NB-IRDT

Research

NB-IRDT research projects using platform data

This “demonstration project” addressed a question of relevance to the Departments of Health, health regions and patients while demonstrating the ability of the three Maritime provinces to collaborate and research in parallel through the Maritime SPOR SUPPORT Unit (MSSU).

Our researchers:

  • compared the distribution and organization of treatment for total hip and knee arthroplasty and cardiac surgical procedures across different regions of the province
  • evaluated how patient outcomes vary within and across jurisdictions and as a function of travel times to the hospital
  • evaluated how cost and performance measures vary across hospitals offering these services within the province
To complete this “demonstration project,” groups from the three Maritime provinces collaborated and researched in parallel through the Maritime SPOR SUPPORT Unit (MSSU), addressing a question of relevance to the Departments of Health, health regions and patients.

This is epidemiology study looked at amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a rare and devastating neurodegenerative disease which causes death within three to five years of diagnosis.

The Stan Cassidy Centre for Rehabilitation - New Brunswick's tertiary neurologic rehabilitation centre and our research partner - follows approximately 60 persons with ALS at a time.

The project objective is to investigate the population of ALS patients, including patterns of incidence and prevalence, with particular focus on apparent clusters. The hypothesis is that the investigation will lead to the discovery of clusters of ALS in New Brunswick, contributing to understanding and prediction of ALS.

Rates of mental health-related hospital admissions among youth in New Brunswick have risen to almost double the national average.

This could be attributed a lack of primary health care and community-based mental health services, which has implications for service continuity and early diagnosis of mental health issues among children and youth who are at-risk of developing chronic mental health problems in adulthood.

This continuing research project will make a significant contribution to health policy development in New Brunswick by addressing the lack of information known about the increasing number of youth that are admitted to hospital for mental health-related issues.

Recent legislation has granted presumptive coverage, under the workers’ compensation system, to New Brunswick firefighters who develop cancer.

Since premiums are set on a cost-recovery basis, fund solvency requires that stakeholders have information on the typical cost associated with each type of cancer covered.

 The objective of this project is to fill this information gap by estimating the cost per case of these cancers. The cost estimates will be used to develop an estimate of the future cost to the worker’s compensation system. Access to linked NB-IRDT data is necessary so estimates are based on New Brunswick patient-level cost data.

One of the justifications for closing smaller local hospital facilities in rural New Brunswick in favour of larger regional hospitals (i.e., regionalization, or centralization) is that the quality of surgical outcomes may improve as doctors at larger hospitals perform higher volumes of a given surgery, thus becoming more experienced.

This study examines how patient outcomes vary with surgeon experience level. Is it overall amount of experience (the total volume of total surgeries conducted) or the number of surgeries performed of a specific type that matters more for patient outcomes? Does the experience level of other doctors working at the same hospital have any impact? 

Proximity to health-care services has decreased over the past decade for some New Brunswick residents, due to the closing or repurposing of 10 hospitals. The impact of these closures has not been evaluated in a systematic manner.

The goal of this project is to address this knowledge gap by studying intra-provincial travel for hospital services using administrative health data from NB-IRDT. This project will make a significant contribution to the international health services literature and health policy development in New Brunswick by evaluating the direct implications of hospital closures on health outcomes, hospital readmissions and rates of mortality. 

Governments and other organizations make decisions that affect the future of small communities, including decisions about where, when and whether to build or close schools, hospitals, shops and small businesses. The importance of community-level decision making is particularly acute in sparsely populated and rural areas, where distance between settlements makes it difficult to share resources and where the consequences of poor planning decisions are more likely to be economically and socially disruptive.

This project utilizes a small-area, probabilistic approach to population modelling to assist planners and policy makers and underpin theory about human settlements in small communities of New Brunswick.

The majority of emerging human infectious diseases are illnesses in animals that can be transmitted to humans. The most familiar of these illnesses to Canadians are the West Nile virus and Lyme disease.

This research will produce estimates of the prevalence of a select number of emerging zoonotic pathogens through an anonymized provincial serosurvey, using residual blood samples submitted for diagnostic tests as part of routine health checkups. To determine whether these samples are representative of the population, the findings will be compared to patient-level data at NB-IRDT. This data will inform public health policymaking in the future.

This project seeks to evaluate the economic burden of mental health disorders among New Brunswickers aged from 11 and 25 years old.

It will assess costs associated with hospitalizations and visits to physicians, estimate the prevalence of young people hospitalized, the duration of each hospitalization over 15 years, estimate suicidality and analyze prevalence of mental health disorders.

In 1991, the New Brunswick Heart Centre (NBHC) was opened in Saint John to provide comprehensive cardiac care services for the entire province. The quality of care has been outstanding but wait times for cardiovascular surgery have often exceeded benchmarks proposed by the Canadian Cardiovascular Society (by as much as 50%).

Studies have demonstrated the deleterious effect of geographic distance (i.e., having remote geographic place of residence) on access to cardiac care across Canada. This project examines the impact of distance on longer-term outcomes of catheterization, such as repeat cardiac procedure, cardiac readmission and survival using data at NB-IRDT.

The effectiveness of breast cancer screening has been the subject of extensive research. The relationship between breast cancer screening and the nature and extent of disease at diagnosis has been much less explored.

Previous research has established that breast cancer screening patterns vary by geographic characteristics (e.g., urban vs. rural) and by socio-demographic characteristics (e.g., age and education). The importance of the particular screening method used is not yet well understood.

This study will examine how screening participation translates into differences in outcomes: in particular, differences in favourability of tumour characteristics at time of detection.

This project examines the effect of interventions on the evolution of Alzheimer’s disease or related disorders in people aged 65 or older. Its objective is to understand, refine, improve and facilitate dissemination and scale-up of successful and sustainable collaborative care models.

This project, which is in the final stages of approval, will evaluate refined innovative care models on primary care dementia in terms of continuity of care, quality of follow-up, detection, diagnosis and access to specialists. It seeks to understand what policies and procedures are in place, what types of health professionals are employed and what patient population is being served. 

The health care system in New Brunswick faces significant challenges that are intertwined with radical demographic shifts, increasing demand for health services and higher-than-average observed rates of disease and adverse health conditions. An increasing number of people are living longer, albeit with complex chronic diseases that require years or decades of support.

This project measures and models how rates of chronic disease vary with population shifts at the local level. These small-area rate variations and projection scenarios are essential to inform New Brunswick health policy and research. 


The Maritime Provinces experience a higher prevalence of obesity and chronic diseases than other provinces. Early interventions in expectant families and families with young children are a promising approach to promoting health and preventing or delaying the development of chronic disease.

However, evidence is often insufficient to assess the effectiveness of early years interventions. New Brunswick and P.E.I. have started to collect more data on infants, young children and women in the perinatal period.

This project will use these datasets to produce comprehensive provincial-level health profiles of young children and longitudinal projects with a focus on reducing obesity and chronic disease.


New Brunswick has sought to attract immigrants as part of a broader strategy aimed at increasing the working-age population. The provincial government has also invested significant resources in ensuring refugees choose to remain here.

An important determinant of the success of this strategy is that refugees will generate economic activity greater than the economic costs of hosting them and one of the main costs is the provision of health care.

This project will use administrative data to study immigrant and refugee outcomes that are of great interest to the Province of New Brunswick: retention and health service use.

The prevalence of diabetes--and of screening for diabetes prevention and control through glycosylated hemoglobin (also known as A1c) testing--has increased rapidly in New Brunswick in the last 15 years. The factors associated with screening access, primary care practices and monitoring of glycemic targets for diabetes management and subsequent health-care utilization and health outcomes among people with diagnosed diabetes remain largely unknown.

The objective of this research is to profile the prevalence and correlates of access to care for diabetes prevention and control in New Brunswick to inform policy and programs leading to healthy populations, sustainable health system investments and better patient care experiences. The only place to access these data is at NB-IRDT.

Trauma registry data indicates that falls-related hospitalizations occur between 70% – 85% in New Brunswick seniors. This project will study hip fractures as a common issue with significant impact on health-care costs, home-care strategies and trauma care.

This study will use NB-IRDT administrative data to understand what factors are predictive of better outcomes, which could possibly result in significant health-care savings and improved patient outcomes. Another result would be to identify variations in length of stay, where patients were discharged to, patient mortality and access to services in communities for those with limited mobility. 

Immigrant retention in New Brunswick

Rural public facility closure and its impact on migration

NB-IRDT special projects

This five-year project is seeking to establish a fully integrated provincial respiratory health information platform in New Brunswick.

The purpose of the respiratory health information platform is to establish local capacity and expertise in the host organization, to ensure translation of “big data” into knowledge products that will improve the quality of health-care services and to foster better outcomes in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other chronic lung diseases.

This information platform will serve as the foundation for research, health strategy and policy creation. NB-IRDT data is critically important to research and planning in this area.

Working closely with LivingSJ, an organization working to improve the lives of the residents of one of New Brunswick’s poorest neighborhoods, NB-IRDT is providing community-level data on a wide range of indicators of community wellness and resilience to better enable an understanding of the extent of the challenges in North End Saint John and what types of interventions are most likely to succeed in improving outcomes.

LivingSJ is made of a range of non-profit organizations such as the United Way, the Saint John Human Development Council and the City of Saint John among others.