Applied Public Health Chair – Scott Leatherdale

Scott Leatherdale, BPHE, MA, PhD, is an Associate Professor and former Cancer Care Ontario Research Chair at the University of Waterloo. Dr. Leatherdale obtained his B.P.H.E. in Health Promotion at Laurentian University, MA in Human Development at Laurentian University, and PhD in Health Behaviour at the University of Waterloo. Dr. Leatherdale has focused his research on the link between environmental contexts (social and physical) and cancer risk behaviour, as well as the development of systems to promote uptake of evidence-based practices in population-based cancer prevention programming. Dr. Leatherdale brings this expertise into his CIHR/PHAC Applied Public Health Chair aimed at improving youth health in Ontario, as well as nationally and internationally.

The decision-making collaborator on Dr. Leatherdale’s Chair in Applied Public Health is Dr. Heather E. Manson, MD, FRCP, MHSc, Chief, Health Promotion, Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention at Public Health Ontario.

Dr. Leatherdale was recently awarded the inaugural CIHR-IPPH Trailblazer Award in Population Health Solutions from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

Dr. Leatherdale’s Chair

Dr. Leatherdale’s research focuses primarily on the development, surveillance, and evaluation of population health interventions, as well as the creation of infrastructure needed to facilitate population level study of chronic disease prevention, primarily among youth populations.

Chair Objective

The primary objectives of Dr. Leatherdale’s research, as an Applied Public Health Chair, are firstly to examine how population-based chronic disease prevention interventions (programs, policies, built environment resources) are related to the major modifiable risk factors for chronic disease common among youth populations, including substance use (tobacco, alcohol, marijuana), and oversight and obesity, including poor diet and physical inactivity. Secondly, Dr. Leatherdale aims to develop infrastructure and systems to ameliorate the uptake of evidence-based practices, or to develop practice-based evidence in population-based chronic disease prevention programming. Dr. Leatherdale is also working to advance systems-science evaluation methods, the application of novel statistical methods for modeling missing data, and the development and implementation of learning systems to advance public health decision making.  These objectives will be primarily targeted through the application and expansion of the COMPASS system.

These objectives will be targeted through the expansion of COMPASS, a longitudinal cohort study exploring youth health behaviours and how they are influenced by contextual environments. Specifically, COMPASS evaluates how ongoing changes in policies, programs, or built environment resources relate to changes in youth behaviours and outcomes (tobacco use, obesity, diet, physical activity, screen time, alcohol use, drug use, bullying, and academic achievement) over time.

Moving forward, Dr. Leatherdale is interested in addressing a number of key public health questions pertaining to multiple levels of influence, on multiple topics, as well as building a foundation for mentorship and training of new investigators in the COMPASS model. Further, through his research Dr. Leatherdale aims to strengthen national capacity, evaluate and adapt strategies to advance youth health in multiple domains, and to strengthen the ability to comprehend and address health inequities among high-risk groups. Dr. Leatherdale is also interested in expanding the comprehension of how different environments affect youth health trajectories or other outcomes of different programs and policies, and fostering an increased evidence-based practice through engaged partnerships between researchers and knowledge users.

In the 1st year of the Chair award, more than 200 natural experiments have occurred within the COMPASS system that are currently being evaluated by my large team of collaborators and trainees. My team also wrote and submitted six new COMPASS related research proposals to maintain the current COMPASS study cohort develop new COMPASS modules to address youth mental health, and to expand COMPASS into different jurisdictions across Canada.  The breadth of the COMPASS team has also expanded as we are now engaging a pan-Canadian team of 25+ researchers and 100+ local, provincial and national stakeholders who are using the data to advance population health intervention research and practice nationally.

Want to learn more?

To learn more about Dr. Leatherdale’s research and projects, please visit:

Follow on Twitter @COMPASS_UW or @DrLeatherdale


Leatherdale, S.T. Commentary on Lipperman-Kreda et al. (2015): Robust methods with a weak outcome measure still lead to consistent conclusions – even so, it may be time for recommendations to move from traditional tobacco control strategies to a relevant endgame strategy. Addiction. 2016,111,533-534.

Godin, K., Stapleton, J., Kirkpatrick, S.I., Hanning, R.M., Leatherdale, S.T. Applying systematic review search methods to the grey literature: A case study examining guidelines for school-based breakfast programs in Canada. Systematic Reviews. 2015,4,138. doi: 10.1186/s13643-015-0125-0

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