IJC Directive to the Health Professionals Advisory Board


The Health Professionals Task Force was created by the International Joint Commission (Commission) in 1995 to provide advice to the Commission and its Boards about current and emergent clinical and public health issues in the area of environmental health.  In October 2011, the Health Professionals Task Force was renamed the Health Professionals Advisory Board (HPAB) and its mandate was revised in 2015 with the following responsibilities:

  1. Provide expertise in human health to support the work of the Commission and its watershed boards, the Great Lakes Water Quality Board and the Science Advisory Board.

  2. Identify and alert the Commission, to emerging human health issues associated with air or water quality in Great Lakes basin and other basins where the Commission has specific water quality responsibilities.   

  3. Review human health research and provide knowledge synthesis and translation for use by Commission staff, Commissioners, health professionals and the general public.

  4. Assist the Commission with reports on human health issues relevant to its responsibilities.

  5. Collaborate with health professional associations and medical educational institutions to promote human health educational projects that focus on prevention of health effects from environmental toxicants.

  6. Make recommendations to the Commission concerning matters that might be forwarded to the Governments of Canada and the United States pursuant to the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909.


As requested by the Commission, the HPAB shall provide advice, analysis, review or support on human health-related issues for the following:

  1. Scientific reports, opinions or ongoing updates related to the identification, evaluation and resolution of current and emerging human health issues;

  2. Identification of specific programs for which binational or international cooperation is desirable and promote communication, cooperation, collaboration, and coordination between these health professionals, scientists, managers and organizations;

  3. The Commission’s Triennial Assessment of Progress Report under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA);

  4. The Commission’s or the Governments’ science priorities;

  5. Water quality issues relevant to work of the Commission’s  international watershed boards;

  6. Compilation and synthesis of research activities and findings pertinent to the Boundary Waters Treaty (BWT) and the GLWQA and encouraging others to provide such information;

  7. Science-based materials prepared by Commission staff and contractors;

  8. Efforts to identify and solicit the support of binational experts to participate in Board and Commission efforts.


The Commission will use the principles below as a guide for making appointments to the HPAB, although the Commission has the discretion to alter membership as required.

Membership of the HPAB will include an equal number of Canadians and Americans.

The HPAB will consist of experts in human, animal, and environmental health, and will be composed of 12 members. In appointing members to the HPAB, the Commission will seek to include government health experts, practicing clinicians, academics and representatives from non-governmental organizations, First Nations, Metis populations and American Tribes.

The HPAB will be co-chaired by one Canadian member and one American member.

HPAB members will generally be appointed for 3 year terms, and may be re-appointed for two further 3 year terms, for a maximum total of 9 consecutive years of service. A member may serve beyond this maximum where the Commission cannot identify a similarly qualified individual who can replicate the expertise and experience of the member in question.

Member Competencies

In general, members should meet these competencies:

  • Extensive knowledge of and experience in addressing human, animal or environmental health issues;

  • Significant specialized clinical or scientific knowledge of environmental and public health issues or significant experience working in relevant health research or research programs;

  • The membership will be made up of scientific experts from relevant disciplines such as, but not limited to, environmental health medicine, environmental epidemiology, toxicology, public health, drinking water quality, fish consumption safety, and recreational water use safety.

Responsibilities of Co-Chairs

With support of a Board Secretary and other staff designated by the Great Lakes Regional Office (GLRO) Director, and Section Liaisons, the Co-Chairpersons will be responsible for the following: scheduling meetings and agendas for the HPAB; managing the work of the HPAB; reporting to the Commission on work plans, activities and accomplishments.

With the support of the Board Secretary and the Section Liaisons, each of the Co-Chairpersons shall be responsible for maintaining proper liaison between the HPAB and the Commission, ensuring that the members of the HPAB are informed of all instructions, inquiries and authorizations received from the Commission and of activities undertaken by or on behalf of the HPAB and progress made in implementing its annual work plan.

Responsibilities of Members

Members will be expected to commit to the work of the HPAB with the expectation that there may be a significant time commitment required at certain periods. Co-Chairs will be expected to commit additional effort beyond those of board members.

Members are expected to serve in an impartial manner, performing their duties for the common good of both countries.  The work of the HPAB must be conducted in a manner that merits public trust and confidence.  Members are to avoid any real, apparent, or potential conflicts of interest.  Any questions on conflicts of interest raised by members of the Board should be directed to the Director of the GLRO, who will direct the question to the Commission’s ethics officers.

Members will be expected to contribute constructively to the work of the Board throughout the appointed term.  If a member is not able to meet any of the above expectations the member may resign or be excused from service by the Commission at any point during the member’s term. Members’ contributions to the work of the HPAB, as well as area of expertise will be the primary consideration for reappointment.

Members are expected to attend all meetings of the HPAB and Committees of which they are members.  Although it is understood that absences may occur, frequent absences may result in the Commission excusing a member from further participation on HPAB and the appointment of a replacement member.



The HPAB will convene via teleconference or videoconference and hold at least two meetings in-person on an annual basis, with one meeting being at a Commission semi-annual meeting. The other meeting will take place in Windsor or at another location in or near a transboundary watershed. In general, Commissioners and relevant Commission staff are invited to attend any meetings of the Board and its committees. The Board Secretary will advise the Co-Chairs of Commissioners’ participation in advance.  The Board may exclude staff in extraordinary circumstances and only after notifying the GLRO Director in advance.

With support of its Board Secretary, Liaisons and GLRO staff, the HPAB will develop an annual in-person meeting schedule and post it on the Commission website.  Following each meeting, the HPAB will approve meeting summaries, which will be posted on the Commission website within a month.

Work Groups

Subject to Commission direction and approval, the HPAB will establish work groups as it deems necessary to conduct its business.  The Commission will be kept informed of the duties and composition of any such working groups.

Work group participants recruited from outside the regular board membership shall be given a copy of this document, as well as other orientation materials as appropriate. These individuals are expected to undertake responsibilities similar to HPAB members, except with respect to hours of service.  The expected commitment should be appropriate to the tasks of the work group and discussed with potential members when they are recruited.  Less formal arrangements for work groups can also be established.

Work Planning and Reporting

The HPAB shall prepare an annual work plan for its proposed activities and will be responsible for delivering on their respective work plans and ensuring the scientific integrity of each of their products.

The plan will include provision for public information and for public participation in HPAB activities to the extent appropriate. This plan will be reviewed by Board Secretary and Liaisons and presented to the Commission for approval prior to each spring semi-annual meeting, and be reviewed by the Commission at the autumn semi-annual meeting.

To facilitate preparation of the GLRO annual budget, the HPAB will also provide the GLRO Director with proposed resource requirements for its work plan. This budget will be prepared in consultation with Board Secretary, Liaisons and the GLRO Director and it will be submitted along with the work plan.  The Commission will review and approve, disapprove and/or amend the proposed resource requirements.

The HPAB will be invited to appear at the Commissions’ spring and fall semi-annual meetings (in person preferably or, if necessary, by video or teleconference) to report on its  activities and discuss any issues related to performance, support, forward planning or any other topic of interest to the HPAB or Commissioners.

Liaison with other Commission Boards

The HPAB is encouraged to maintain an awareness of Great Lakes Water Quality Board and Science Advisory Board activities, and Boards in other basins where the Commission has specific water quality reporting responsibilities.

Liaison with Commission

If in the opinion of the HPAB as a whole or of any members, there is a lack of clarity or precision in any instruction, directive or authorization received from the Commission; or should the HPAB be unable to reach agreement regarding any matter within its area of responsibility; the Co-Chairs will promptly inform the Board Secretary and Section Liaisons.  


Administrative support, public information services and technical assistance to the HPAB will be provided primarily by (or through) the GLRO.

The GLRO Director will manage GLRO staff support, including the appointment of a Secretary for the HPAB. Canadian and US Section Liaisons will be appointed by the Section Secretaries.

The public affairs of the HPAB will ordinarily be handled through the public information service led out of the GLRO, and ordinarily GLRO staff will also coordinate any interactions with the media, except in matters outside of the Great Lakes, where input from the public affairs advisors of the two sections will be sought.  Particular public relations activities and related resource requirements to be undertaken should be outlined in the Board’s work plan and in documents developed during the year and presented to the GLRO Director for approval or for further consideration by the Commission.

Any official communication with Governments or their agencies regarding HPAB matters must be approved by the Commission.

The Co-Chairs of the HPAB shall consult with the GLRO Director, and as necessary, with the Commission regarding the HPAB's staff support requirements and how they can best be met.

When reporting on matters to the Commission, HPAB members will seek to reach a consensus on their advice to the Commission.  Individual members will determine whether their signature or authorship will accompany reports to the Commission. In some circumstances individual members may choose to withhold their signature or authorship, or submit an independent report. These independent reports may be submitted directly to the Commissioners.


The secretariat of the HPAB shall be maintained at the GLRO and all pertinent records and supporting documents shall be maintained at the GLRO.

Documents, letters, memoranda and communications of every kind in the official records of the Commission are privileged and become available for public information in accordance with Rule 11 of the Commission’s Rules of Procedure. All HPAB documents, including HPAB reports to the Commission, are considered to be in the official records of the Commission, and are accordingly similarly privileged.

Members shall take measures necessary to identify documents relating to their duties as HPAB members and keep these documents, either physically or electronically, separate from other work files. Emails relating to HPAB duties should, as much as possible, be kept separate from other work emails.


For governmental HPAB members, their respective agencies are expected to pay their costs for participation in HPAB activities. The necessary expenses of non-governmental HPAB members for travel to attend Commission, HPAB and Committee meetings may be paid by the Commission as per Commission polices. The Commission may approve support of exceptional travel expenses if deemed necessary to conduct the business of the HPAB.


The Commission may issue a Directive to the Board for each three year cycle or other circumstances as needed:

  • guide the Board in the interpretation of the detailed functions;

  • provide specific direction on the requested timing and content of specific reports or advice;

  • specify updated rules and procedures or other operating instructions, as required.