Health and Social Services Research in the NWT

Research plays an important role in improving the health and well-being of residents of the Northwest Territories (NWT). In the NWT, research activities are regulated and must be carried out in accordance with the Scientists Act (‘the Act’).

The Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) is committed to supporting health and social services-related research to inform evidence-based decision making. DHSS maintains interest in partnerships with stakeholders both across the Health and Social Services (HSS) system and external to the system, such as academic institutions, territorial and federal government departments, Indigenous Governments and organizations (IGO), communities, and the private sector to advance the research priorities of the NWT HSS System.

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Research Resources

Those interested in conducting health and social services research projects in the NWT, are encouraged to learn about some of the history of health research in the NWT and to review summaries of previous research projects to assist in developing effective engagement strategies.

Our current priorities include:

  • Improving the health status of the population through prevention and education
  • Improving access to primary care services
  • Mental health and addictions
  • Child and family services
  • Addressing disparities in aboriginal health

Review the GNWT Knowledge Agenda (Environment and Climate Change) and the Research Database and search projects to familiarize yourself with past and current research initiatives, research priorities and discuss your project idea with representatives in the region. NWT Bureau of Statistics provides a vast source of Statistical data for research utilization StatsNWT.

In addition, some Indigenous governments, organizations, and communities, have also established health research priorities important to the needs of the citizens of NWT. More information on some of these priorities can be found at the links below:

Research Support

Those conducting research aligned with the priorities of the NWT HSS system can request various types of support from the GNWT, including general letters of support, knowledge translation partnerships and access to data. Ability to provide support will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Particular attention to knowledge translation and plain language dissemination plans will be encouraged.

If you are a researcher interested in health and social services research, contact the HSS Research Coordinator at to learn about the need for a research license for your project, get answers on general questions you may have, and receive feedback on your proposed research methodology, participant recruitment process and other considerations suitable for the NWT context.

Researchers can also Apply for a research licence through  Education, Culture and Employment for licensing under the GNWT Scientists Act. For more general information on conducting research in the NWT please refer to Q & A for Researchers for further details.

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Oral Health Facts

Applying for a Research License and Agreements

If you are planning to do research in the NWT, it is your responsibility to ensure that communications with relevant communities have occurred and research licensing is obtained before you begin. You are advised to follow the steps below to obtain a research license and additional agreements as required for conducting your project in NWT.

  • Review the Doing Research in the Northwest Territories Guide (Department of Education, Culture and Employment).
  • Review the Research Resources section to plan your project methodology.
  • Determine which NWT region(s) or land claim area(s) you will be working in. Familiarize yourself with the region/area as the Indigenous, municipal, and territorial governments may have identified regional research priorities and your work may complement existing research efforts.
  • Obtain a Scientific Research License by applying through Portal to Online Licensing Applications for Research (POLAR) .
  • For any research involving human participants, the licensing process requires an ethical review and approval from any institutional research ethics board. The Aurora Research Institute’s ethics committee (REC) is responsible for reviewing applications from Aurora College staff as well as applications from external researchers who do not have access to an institutional ethics review. If you are requesting access to Health and Social Service Records of individuals living in the Northwest Territories, please refer to Aurora College Ethics Committee for further details.
  • Sign a Research Agreement to obtain personal health information (identifying or non-identifying) or use staff time, facilities, or other support resources based on your methodological design.

Staff Participation

If your project involves conducting surveys, focus groups or interviews with HSS staff such as DHSS or Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority (NTHSSA), Tłı̨chǫ Community Services Agency (TCSA), or Hay River Health and Social Services Authority (HRHSSA) - physicians, nurses, policymakers or other staff for collecting information, contact the Research Coordinator for further details.

Personal Health Information/Data

If your project relies on personal health information or other existing health records, you may request access to the data in accordance with the Health Information Act, and Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. The NWT Health Information Act provides for the use of personal health information for research purposes while protecting the privacy of individuals. The Act states that a researcher must not publish information based on records in a form that could reasonably be expected to identify the individuals the information is about. When preparing to share your research findings, you must consider the potential impact on privacy. Please complete the Research Application form section ii (Data Access Request) and submit the form with your project proposal to for review and feasibility assessment. Please note that a cost estimate for the Data request and extraction will be provided to you based on the HIA Regulations Health Information Regulations.

If DHSS data support is not being requested, or collecting information from participants or in Indigenous communities is not part of your project objectives, you can proceed directly to the website Portal to Online Licensing Applications for Research (POLAR) to begin working on your research license application.

Submitting Your Request for Research Support

To request participation support/data from the GNWT Department of Health and Social Services or from one of the health authorities, please complete the Request for Research Support form and submit to the DHSS Research Coordinator at

Research Reporting Requirements

NWT Research Licence holders need to submit copies of any final report(s) produced to DHSS and other knowledge users within and outside of the GNWT whose work may be impacted by the research projects. These report submissions may take the form of a published document, thesis report, technical report, posters or other public presentation formats to be prepared for the GNWT stakeholders to review.