Neil Johnston

Division of Respirology

Neil Johnston


Assistant Professor (Part-time), Division of Respirology, Department of Medicine

Epidemiologist, Firestone Institute for Respiratory Health





Research Interests

The role of viral infections in acute exacerbations of asthma and COPD and IPF – respiratory viral infections are the single most important factor in the genesis of asthma, COPD and possibly IPF (idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis) exacerbations.  International comparisons of the determinants and distribution of epidemic cycles of asthma and COPD and the factors responsible for them are the focus of current studies.

Social determinants of health and health system design -  Neil Johnston and Steve Buist (Investigations Editor, Hamilton Spectator) designed and executed the “Code Red” project between 2007 and 2010. Using health service, education records and socio-economic data, neighbourhoods in the City of Hamilton were profiled for socio-economic and health status and consumption of health services. The Code Red series was published over seven days in the Hamilton Spectator and was designed to stimulate a community debate about variation in health status between neighbourhoods and health system re-design. The series won a National Newspaper award for special projects and was shortlisted for the Michener prize. Johnston and Buist won the 2011 Hillman Prize for journalism fostering social and economic justice.

Physician Human Resource Planning

Neil Johnston founded (1992) and oversees the Ontario Physician Human resources Data Center on behalf of the Ontario Ministry of health and Long-Term Care, the Ontario Medical Association, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, and the Council of Ontario Faculties of Medicine. OPHRDC is the definitive information resource for physician human resource planning in Ontario.

Selected Publications

  1. Neil W. Johnston, Kim Lambert, Patricia Hussack, Maria Gerhardsson de Verdier, Tim Higenbottam, Jonathan Lewis, Paul Newbold, Martin Jenkins, Geoff R. Norman, Peter.V. Coyle, and R. Andrew McIvor.  Detection of COPD Exacerbations and Compliance with Patient Reported Daily Symptom Diaries Using a SmartPhone-Based Information System. Chest 2013 Aug;144(2):507-14.     
  2. Patrick F DeLuca, Neil Johnston & Steve Buist. The Code Red Project: Engaging Communities in Health System Change in Hamilton, Canada. Social Indicators Research 2012;108 (2):317-327.
  3. Johnston NW.The Similarities and Differences of Epidemic Cycles of COPD and Asthma Exacerbations.  Proceedings of the American Thoracic Society 2007;4:591-596.
  4. Johnston NW, Mandhane PJ, Dai J, Duncan JM, Greene JM, Lambert K, Sears MR.   Attenuation of the September epidemic of asthma exacerbations in children:  A randomized controlled trial of montelukast added to usual therapy.  Pediatrics. 2007 Sep;120(3):e702-12.
  5. Johnston NW, Johnston SL, Dai J, Norman GR, Sears MR.  The September epidemic of asthma exacerbations: School children as disease vectors.  J Allergy Clin Immunol 2006;117:557-62.