Photo credit: Juli Labrecque Photography
Photo credit: Juli Labrecque Photography

JSGS student awarded the Best Social and Population Health Paper at the 2021 USask Life and Health Sciences Research Expo

The Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy (JSGS) would like to congratulate Stephanie Ortynsky, PhD Candidate at its University of Saskatchewan (USask) campus, who was awarded Best Social and Population Health Paper presented at the 2021 Life and Health Sciences Research Expo held by the University of Saskatchewan.

Stephanie accepted the award at this year’s virtual Life and Health Sciences Research Expo on May 6, 2021. This annual expo showcases interdisciplinary health science research throughout the province.

“This research expo exists to celebrate the outstanding research, collaboration, and mentorship taking place within the USask community,” said Dr. Adam Baxter-Jones (PhD), USask Interim Associate Provost, Health. “The USask Health Sciences is delighted to recognize Stephanie and her work demonstrating how to be what the world needs by tackling those issues impacting the wellbeing of others.”

The award-winning paper, Budget Practices in Canada’s K-12 Education Sector: Incremental, performance, or productivity budgeting? was co-authored by Stephanie Ortynsky, Jim Marshall, former JSGS executive-in-residence, and Dr. Haizhen Mou (PhD), JSGS professor. In the paper, the authors discuss how budgeting decisions are made in the public K-12 education sector in Canada and propose a technical reform to budgeting in order to achieve better outcomes for Canadian citizens. The concept emphasizes the role that budget decisions have on public service delivery and the impact on the wellbeing of Canadian citizens.

“The overarching outcome of public education is broad: thriving citizens who can gain meaningful employment and contribute to society, Ortynsky said.

The study started with an evaluation of how budgeting for public K-12 education is currently done in Canada. The authors conducted interviews with 25 key informants involved with education budgeting decision-making across 12 out of the 13 provinces and territories in Canada, and found that it was very clear that budgets are largely adjusted incrementally based on the previous year’s numbers.

Performance-based budgeting is often considered as an alternative to an incremental budget. It involves collecting performance data so that relevant outputs can be considered during the budgeting process. Unfortunately, this falls short when data is too expensive to collect for a specific area, or data is not used to its capacity while making allocation decisions.

A productivity budget would take into account the full model from inputs to outputs, while also identifying the amount that can be reallocated because of productivity dividends.

“We proposed a budget reform—accounting for productivity. Data from Statistics Canada shows that there is an estimated .8% annual productivity increase in the public sector. In dollars, this equals 6 billion. If governments were to acknowledge productivity with a dividend, there is a huge potential for funds to be redirected to other priority areas,” said Ortynsky.

Budgets across areas of government have great effects on the environment, outcomes in the public school system, and health outcomes measured through wellbeing. Ortynsky is interested in the extensive benefits of cross-collaboration in interdisciplinary research and areas of government.

“The outcomes in each system are affected by many social factors. In New Zealand, they have been encouraged to collaborate between ministries because a lot of these outcomes, like health indicators, are so much bigger than the system itself. The education outcomes are also much bigger than the system itself. Whenever you can do larger initiatives across government ministries and agencies, you might have a better outcome. Wellbeing touches on all aspects of government.”

The 2021 Life and Health Sciences Research Expo is one of the ways for researchers like Otynsky to showcase their work and collaborate with others. 

Ortynsky appreciated the opportunity to participate and found that she learned a lot from listening to the other sections. 

“Hearing what research is being done on campus and having this platform for making virtual connections with people across disciplines is integral for cross-collaboration.”