I am a professor in the School of Public Health, University of Alberta and an Applied Public Health Chair (supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research in partnership with Public Health Agency of Canada and Alberta Innovates - Health Solutions) with a mandate to help advance the field of population health intervention and health equity. I am a health geographer and health promotion researcher with a strong interest in the role of built and social environments on health and well-being. I also have expertise in the development and diffusion of healthy public policies.
My research is grounded in social-ecological frameworks, critical social science, and community-based participatory research perspectives. Most of my studies employ mixed-methods, involving both quantitative (e.g., surveys, systematic community observation) and qualitative (e.g., interviews, focus groups, photovoice) techniques. I also use geographic information systems (GIS) for mapping and spatial analysis in some of my work.
I am an applied researcher, which means that community impact (or “making a real difference in the community”) is as important to me as scholarly impact. My research is typically conducted in partnership with practitioners and decision-makers in the communities (or other settings) that are working with me. The community partners I collaborate with help to define project research questions and implement the project in meaningful ways. In turn, the research helps to address issues that the community partners are working with in their daily practice.
I am also the Lead Investigator of the Policy, Location and Access in Community Environments (PLACE) Research Lab. For more information on the research that myself and my team, please visit www.placeresearchlab.com.
PhD, Health Studies and Gerontology, University of Waterloo (2004)
MA, Recreation and Leisure Studies, University of Waterloo (1999)
BA, Human Geography, University of Alberta (1997)
Academic Distinctions and Awards
2014-2019 Applied Public Health Chair, Canadian Institutes of Health Research in partnership with Public Health Agency of Canada and Alberta Innovates: Health Solutions
2016 - 2023 Member of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists of the Royal Society of Canada
2016 Supervisor of the Year (1 of 2), School of Public Health Students Association, University of Alberta
2015 Martha Cook Piper Research Prize, University of Alberta
2015 Community Connection Scholar Award, University of Alberta
2009 Faculty & Staff Award of Excellence, Presented on behalf of the Health Promotion Graduate Students’ Association for 2008-2009, University of Alberta
2009 CAFA Distinguished Academic Early Career Award, Confederation of Alberta Faculty Associations
chronic disease prevention
healthy public policy
population health intervention
community based research
knowledge translation & exchange
SupervisionNot currently accepting students.
The Alberta Policy Coalition for Chronic Disease Prevention (formerly the Alberta Policy Coalition for Cancer Prevention) represents a broad range of practitioners, policy-makers, researchers and community organizations who have come together to coordinate efforts, generate evidence and advocate for policy change in order to reduce chronic disease in Alberta. Specific objectives include: increasing the capacity of policy makers and decision makers in Alberta to use policy as a strategy for cancer and chronic disease prevention; providing leadership in the development, implementation and evaluation of policy related activities for cancer and chronic disease prevention; and, facilitating practitioners, policy-makers, researchers and community organizations from various sectors working together to enhance public acceptance of policy-related activities.For more information please visit http://www.abpolicycoalitionforprevention.ca/
2011-2016 Heart and Stroke Foundation
2009-2011 Alberta Cancer Prevention Legacy Fund (Alberta Health Services)
This study evaluated the implementation of phase one of Strathcona County’s Open Spaces and Recreation Facility Strategy (OSFRS). The OSRFS will guide the (re)development of recreation facilities and open spaces to meet community needs over the next 15 years. The County invested $40 million in the first phase (2009 – 2013) to revitalize existing indoor recreation facilities and outdoor spaces.
More specifically, barriers to accessing recreation facilities and open spaces by users and non-users were examined using a mixed-methods design. This data was compared to facility users and non-users of a community similar in size and facility profile (City of Spruce Grove/Town of Stony Plain/Parkland County — referred to as Tri-Municipal Region).
For this project partnerships with the City of Spruce Grove, Parkland County, Strathcona County and the Town of Stony Plain played an integral role in the success of the project.
For more information on this project visit www.placeresearchlab.com
Other Members of the Project Team:
Dr. Tanya Berry, Associate Professor, Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, University of Alberta (Co-Investigator)
Dr. Helen Vallianatos, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Alberta (Co-Investigator)
Strathcona County Recreation, Parks and Culture
City of Spruce Grove
Town of Stony Plain
2011-2013 Canadian Institutes of Health Research: Operating Grant – Population Health Intervention Research
2011-2013 Strathcona County Recreation, Parks and Culture
In the preschool years, play builds a strong foundation for lifelong learning and healthy development. It contributes to the conceptual foundations of literacy, mathematics and scientific thinking, as well as building social competence and confidence, emotional resilience, self-control, and physical strength and coordination. Capitalizing on the importance and benefits of free play, Strathcona County: Recreation, Parks and Culture has invested significant money into creating LovetoPlay, a unique play-based preschool space and curriculum. LovetoPlay aims to enhance preschool children’s early developmental experiences by focusing on open-ended, play-based learning in a purposefully designed environment.
This research seeks to uncover whether and how the innovative design of the LovetoPlay preschool space and program fosters free play amongst preschool children and to explore the immediate health and health equity benefits realized from this innovation.
For more information of this project please visit: www.placeresearchlab.com
Other Members of the Project Team:
Dr. Jane Hewes, Chair and Associate Professor, Early Learning and Child Care, Grant MacEwan University (Co-Principal Investigator)
Dr. Jeff Bisanz, Professor, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts, University of Alberta (Co-Investigator)
Dr. Rebecca Gokiert, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Extension, University of Alberta (Co-Investigator)
Dr. Ana Paula Belon, Research Associate, PLACE Research Lab, School of Public Health, University of Alberta (Co-Investigator)
2014-2016 Canadian Institutes of Health Research: Operating Grant – Population Health Intervention Research to Promote Health and Health Equity
2014-2016 Alberta Centre for Child Family and Community Research
The Policy Readiness Tool (PRT; www.policyreadinesstool.com) is a self-administered questionnaire that can be used to assess a community, organization or municipality’s readiness for policy change. Included with the questionnaire is a series of strategies for working with communities or organizations at different stages of readiness for policy change and a resource list for additional information. The purpose of the Tool is to help advocates and policy developers encourage the adoption of healthy public policy within communities, organizations or municipalities. The PRT is available in English and French at www.policyreadinesstool.com.
2013-2014 Canadian Institutes of Health Research: Dissemination Events
2012-2013 Killam Research Fund: Cornerstone Operating Grant
2009-2011 Alberta Policy Coalition for Chronic Disease Prevention (formerly Alberta Policy Coalition for Cancer Prevention, an initiative funded by Alberta Health Services – Alberta Cancer Prevention Legacy Fund)