Population Health Intervention Researcher Profiles

Dr. Nicole F. Bernier

Director of Research, Institut de recherche en politiques publiques

My interest in population health intervention research goes back to the early 2000s when opportunities were created in Canada to encourage the development of new health research niches requiring expertise in the social sciences. With my doctorate in political science and specialization in Canadian social policy, I began a postdoctorate in this field, which is so rarely explored by political scientists. Having in the meantime become a professor, I oriented my research more specifically toward studying the content of public legislation, policies and programs dealing with population health, as well as toward the often complex processes involved in developing and redefining such legislation, policies and programs.

Policy considerations are always delicate. That being said, governmental directions and political activities from diverse groups influence the type of interventions that are likely to be implemented and they must be highlighted. I very much enjoy conceptual and intellectual challenges and have a definite liking for avant-garde research. Over the past several years I have been able to appreciate the combination of extraordinary possibilities and equally extraordinary obstacles involved in integrating the knowledge and practices that are often unknown and unrecognized in this research area.

Email: nbernier@irpp.org

Dr. David Hammond

Associate Professor, School of Public Health and Health Systems, University of Waterloo
CIHR-funded Researcher and Population and Public Health Award Recipient

I have used population health research to evaluate existing health policy and regulations, as well as to explore the impact of novel interventions. Much of my work has been in the area of tobacco control to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions that have a broad reach, such as health warnings on tobacco packaging, bans on advertising and the use and uptake of stop-smoking medications. I have been able to work closely with governments around the world to advise on tobacco policies and regulations, including the first international public health treaty — the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

The primary benefit of population health intervention research is high-quality evidence that can inform policy. My work seeks to provide decision makers with the best possible evidence to guide policies and regulations. This kind of research also focuses on evaluating the impact of interventions in a "real-world" context, as well as identifying key gaps and needs.

There is a growing number of funding and research opportunities related to population health. Most importantly, conducting population health research on interventions is an excellent way of having impact and ensuring the relevance of health research.

Email: dhammond@uwaterloo.ca

Dr. Nazeem Muhajarine

Professor and Chair, Community Health and Epidemiology, College of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan
Lead, Healthy Children research team, Saskatchewan Population Health and Evaluation Research Unit

I have focused my academic career on understanding how the social contexts in which children live — their families and their neighbourhoods — help or hinder them in their early years. I have always balanced my commitment to developing new knowledge in child health at a population level with making this research knowledge useful to people in the community and in government. To do so, my team and I have made integrated knowledge translation a key part of our work. As our body of population health knowledge has grown, we have focused more on conducting intervention studies so that we can shed light on what kinds of interventions lead to better outcomes for young children, their families, and communities, and how and why. Our recent intervention projects include a three-year mixed methods evaluation of the government of Saskatchewan's flagship early childhood intervention program KidsFirst, an evaluation of full-day kindergarten pilot projects on students, teachers and parents and a quantitative evaluation of the Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program's impact on mothers and newborns. Currently we are evaluating the impact that Saskatoon's neighbourhood design and built environment has on children's physical activity levels and eating patterns.

Email: nazeem.muhajarine@usask.ca

Dr. Melanie Rock

MSW (Social Work), PhD (Anthropology), RSW Associate Professor, University of Calgary
Department of Community Health Sciences, Cumming School of Medicine (primary appointment)
Department of Ecosystem and Public Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (joint appointment)
Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Arts and Faculty of Social Work (adjunct appointments with supervisory privileges)
Associate Editor (Qualitative Research), Canadian Journal of Public Health
AHFMR/AIHS Population Health Investigator, 2007-2014
CIHR New Investigator, 2007-2012

Without knowing it, I began to work in population health intervention research about 10 years ago as a doctoral student in anthropology. For example, I traced and analyzed why the Canadian government was beginning to put greater emphasis on diabetes in health and scientific policies. Later, as a postdoctoral fellow, I studied the question of food insecurity and why government policies and programs have not really stressed prevention. Since taking up a faculty position, I have created a research program to investigate human-animal relationships as a strategic opportunity to promote health and to identify barriers to to physical, mental and social well-being

Research on events and processes that could influence the health of entire populations is crucial for helping people live in good health for as long as possible. This research agenda is crucially important from a practical perspective, yet it is challenging. Intellectually speaking, I have enjoyed the "puzzles" that we encounter in population health intervention research, as well as its transdisciplinary nature.


Email: mrock@ucalgary.ca

Dr. Patty Williams

Associate Professor, Department of Applied Human Nutrition, Mount St.Vincent University
Director, Participatory Action Research and Training Center on Food Security
Canada Research Chair in Food Security and Policy Change
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and CIHR-Funded Investigator

I began working in population health intervention research about 10 years ago as a postdoctoral fellow at the Atlantic Health Promotion Research Center and new faculty member in Applied Human Nutrition at Mount Saint Vincent University. My first study, in partnership with the Nova Scotia Nutrition Council, focused on the local involvement of 21 family resource centres/projects and their participants in participatory food costing. This led to a sustainable network of research partners from many different sectors committed to investigating how participatory action research (PAR) processes can build capacity to influence food security-related policy. Using dialogue methods and PAR approaches, we have effectively engaged groups with diverse perspectives on food security to consider ‘the others' point of view, challenge assumptions, build knowledge and explore food security implications of policy at local, regional and national levels. This work has been at the forefront of provincial and national efforts to address food insecurity and led to the development of a model for provincial participatory food costing in 2004/05 that was subsequently funded by the Nova Scotia Department of Health Promotion and Protection (2006-2011) as part of Healthy Eating Nova Scotia.

We have shown that PAR builds capacity to address food insecurity through policy change. The evidence generated to date on PAR processes has influenced both policy and practice in Nova Scotia (e.g., changes to Income Assistance policies and government strategies) and has been used by many other locales working on policy-oriented approaches to food insecurity. In addition, the lessons learned through these projects have contributed to the development of a web-accessible, plain language, bilingual workbook titled "Thought About Food? A Workbook on Food Security & Influencing Policy".

Email: patty.williams@msvu.ca

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