Karen Palmer

Independent Health Policy Analyst, and Health Services Researcher

Women's College Research Institute

Karen Palmer

Independent Health Policy Analyst, and Health Services Researcher

Women's College Research Institute


Karen Palmer is an Adjunct Professor at Simon Fraser University, independent health policy analyst, and health services researcher at Women’s College Research Institute. She joined FHS at 2008 where she taught comparative health care policy and coordinated the MPH practicum program until 2013.

For 25+ years, Karen’s passion has been comparative health care funding and delivery systems, policies, and reforms (mostly US, Europe, and Canada), underpinned by a belief that health care is a human right. Her work aims to bridge evidence and practice.

She holds two graduate degrees in Public Health (MPH, Global/International Health; MS, Health Services, Policy, and Planning); and a Graduate Certificate in Urban and Regional Planning, all from the University of Hawaii (Manoa).

Karen is currently Policy Lead on an implementation science research project to evaluate hospital funding reform in Ontario. From 2012-2014, she was Principal Investigator of a CIHR-funded 19-member international research team, leading a systematic review of the effects of activity-based funding in hospitals on cost, quality, access, equity, and efficiency.

She serves as a Policy Adviser to Canadian Doctors for Medicare (CDM) supporting their efforts to strengthen Canada’s Medicare system; Board Advisor to Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), a research and education organization whose mandate is a publicly-funded, single-payer, national health program for the US; Research Associate with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives; Board Member of the Wilderness Committee; Expert with the Evidence Network; and 2017 TEDMED Research Scholar.

Originally from Canada, Karen divided her time in 1984-2006 between Canada, the US, and Switzerland. Having lived with one foot on either side of the Canada-U.S. border for more than two decades, and in Europe for nearly three years, she brings a unique perspective to her practice.

From 2001-2004, she was a member of the secretariat at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland, serving as a technical officer in the Communicable Disease and Non-Communicable Disease branches. She was involved in global TB control, and served as a WHO liaison to the 22 high-burden countries — those accounting for 80% of the global burden of TB. She co-authored, the Global Tuberculosis Control Report in 2002, 2003, and 2004, compiling and analyzing strategic planning data. She also coordinated a study on health human resources for global TB control, and authored a strategic plan for scaling up the STEPwise approach to global non-communicable disease risk factor surveillance. She was at WHO when the SARS outbreak first occurred, and experienced first-hand the evolution of the global community’s response to an emerging threat.

Karen lived in Hawaii from 1985-1995, working as a Senior Health Planner for the Hawaii State Department of Health in the Office of Policy, Planning, and Program Development. Her work focused on Primary Care and Rural Health in the Hawaiian Islands. She later served as a consultant to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Division at a time when Hawaii was under a “consent decree” to correct deficiencies in their children’s mental health programs, and to Hawaii Nurses Association, American Nurses Association, Hawaii Child and Family Service, and Utah State University, among others.

In the late 80s, she served as a clinic assistant and teacher aboard a 156-foot triple-masted top-sail schooner, Tole Mour (“gift of life and health”). Marimed Foundation’s self-contained hospital ship, run by a multi-national team of health care providers and sailors, delivered primary care to people of the Marshall Islands, the most remote coral atolls in the world. Karen later returned to the Pacific Basin to study the relationship between rapid social change, prenatal care, and birth outcomes in the indigenous people of Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Publications and activities

Palmer KS, Agoritsas T, Martin D, Scott T, Mulla SM, Miller AP, Agarwal A, Bresnahan A, Hazzan AA, Jeffery RA, Merglen A, Negm A, Siemieniuk RA, Bhatnagar N, Dhalla IA, Lavis JN, You JJ, Duckett SJ, Guyatt GH. Activity-Based Funding of Hospitals and its Impact on Mortality, Readmission, Discharge Destination, Severity of Illness, and Volume of Care: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, PLOS ONE, October 27, 2014.

Tyssen R, Palmer K, Solberg I, Voltmer E, Frank E. Physicians' perceptions of quality of care, professional autonomy, and job satisfaction in Canada, Norway, and the United States. Biomedical Central Health Services Research, 13:516, 15 December 2013.

Palmer KS, Martin D, Guyatt G. Prelude to a Systematic Review of Activity-Based Funding of Hospitals: Effects on Health Care System Cost, Quality, Access, Efficiency, and Equity. Vol. 7(4), pp. 94-97 October 6, 2013.