Dr. Jennifer McConnell-Nzunga
Health System Impact Fellow Profile

Jennifer McConnell-Nzunga
Host Partner Organization:
Child Health BC
Name of Host Partner Organization Supervisor:
Jennifer Scarr
Location (city, province):
Vancouver, BC
Academic Institution:
University of Victoria
Name of Academic Supervisor:
Patti-Jean Naylor
Duration of Fellowship:
1 year
Title of Fellowship / Program of Work:
Evaluation of Appetite to Play
Contact Information:
Social media page(s): LinkedIn: Jennifer McConnell-Nzunga


I earned my PhD in the Social Dimensions of Health program at the University of Victoria in 2017 where my research focused on obesity measurement, obesity classification, and the longitudinal determinants of childhood obesity. I previously completed a B.A. in sociology from Kansas Wesleyan University (2010), a Master’s of Health and Human Services from Youngstown State University (2013), and a professional specialization certificate in Population Health Data Analysis from PopulationData.BC (2015).

I have also recently made rewarding volunteer contributions to the Canadian Obesity Network’s Student and New Professional National Executive board, the University of Victoria’s Graduate Student Society’s Board, and the International Society for Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity’s Network of Early Career Researchers and Students networking committee. The HSI fellowship program aligns with my passion for interdisciplinary, data-driven approaches to health policy that work towards actualizing the right of every Canadian to the healthiest life possible.

Fellowship Program of Work

In response to a call for action in the early years, Child Health BC (CHBC) worked with partners to develop Appetite to Play; a comprehensive, coordinated approach to healthy eating and physical activity in early years settings. The anticipated impact of the initiative is cognitive, social, physical and mental health benefits for BC children during a critical developmental stage.

This fellowship program of work will use both process and impact evaluation to meet CHBC’s goals to improve the health status, outcomes and services for BC’s kids by investigating the facilitators and barriers to implementation and sustainability at multiple levels and the impact on childcare provider’s policies and practices. Understanding how to achieve wide scale implementation of policy actions at the population level is both an important research and ‘real world’ priority. Our findings will help decision makers tailor their investments and health promotion activities and inform other jurisdictions in Canada who plan to employ similar population-based policy strategies. Evidence is a critical factor in creating buy-in and leveraging funding.

I am excited for the opportunity to be embedded as an HSI fellow in CHBC. CHBC provides the secretariat for the BC Healthy Child Development Alliance, which is made up of over 40 member organizations from health authorities, child serving ministries, and NGOs, whom are crucial to sustaining its initiatives, including Appetite to Play. I am eager to grow and develop my professional skills as well as research and analytical skills through independent and collaborative work within the diverse CHBC network.

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