Professor, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry - Medicine Dept
Area of Study / Keywords
diabetes health promotion Diabetes prevention New Canadian populations Program evaluation Urban youth Chronic disease prevention Nutrition intervention obesity prevention Urban populations Obesity Northwest Territories Multiethnic populations Disease prevention Indigenous populations Health care services Nutrition Integrated human observation study Dietary patterns Dietary patterns and strategies Pediatric asthma Dietary influence Community-based research Indigenous health
I am a Professor in Indigenous and Global Health Research in the Department of Medicine at the University of Alberta and currently hold the Canada Research Chair in Population Health and Alberta Health Services Chair in Indigenous Health Research. I obtained my PhD in Nutritional Epidemiology from the University of Manchester Medical School in 1996 and since then I have worked with numerous multiethnic and underserved populations in over 20 countries worldwide, including Cameroon, Indonesia, Nepal, Brazil, Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, South Africa, United Kingdom, Canada, and the USA. I have almost 30 years of experience assessing nutrition, health status, and access to, and experiences with, healthcare services and developing, implementing, and evaluating culturally appropriate, community-based health intervention programs for children, youth and adults. Our projects combine nutritional sciences, epidemiology, health promotion, and community-based interventions that specifically focus on improving health and wellness with Indigenous and multi-ethnic populations globally. My research grants (PI/Co-PI/Co-I/Collaborator=95), and publications (n=157) have been multidisciplinary, multi-ethnic, and included major chronic diseases and currently focus on capturing the diverse and dynamic impacts of COVID-19 on all aspects of health and wellness in Canadian Arctic communities. My team and I work directly with community members as full partners, ensuring all projects align with community needs and priorities and include local capacity building, training, and employment.
After joining the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii in 2001, I collaborated on the Multiethnic Cohort Study of Diet and Cancer. This remains the largest study of its kind with 215,000 participants, including Native Hawaiians, African-Americans, Japanese Americans, Latin-Americans, and Caucasians, identifying dietary associations with mortality from cancer, heart disease, stroke, and obesity. I also utilized these unique data to examine genetic susceptibility and nutrient-gene interactions for prostate cancer among African-origin men in the cohort. This was one of the first studies to look at heterocyclic aromatic amine intake in people with varying acetalator genotypes (NAT1, NAT2) and associations with cancer.
Since moving to Canada in 2010 and taking my position at the University of Alberta, I have been leading the Indigenous and Global Health Research Group, examining the risk factors for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity among vulnerable youth and adults including senior populations in Canada. I have had the honour and pleasure of working extensively in the Canadian Arctic, starting with the health intervention program Healthy Foods North, which was implemented in six communities in the Northwest Territories (NT) and Nunavut (NU), in partnership with Inuit and Inuvialuit communities in 2007-2011.
More recent work has included assessing access, availability, and utilization of cancer screening services with Indigenous populations in the NT through an Alberta Innovates - Health Solutions funded project named Cancer ACCESS. This has since led to another grant, funded by the Canadian Cancer Society, CIHR, and the Government of the NT, to develop an educational program and video series based on the evidence collected. The videos show each step of the cancer screening procedure for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer and discuss the importance of screening and cancer prevention featuring local community members and health professionals. We aim to release all eleven videos Fall 2019.
In 2017, I received funding from CIHR for a project titled CAPRICORN (Culturally Appropriate Practical Solutions Relevant to Indigenous Seniors and Caregivers Of Remote Northern Communities) to work with two communities in NT, and the Department of Health and Social Services, Government of NT, to gather evidence on Indigenous seniors’ health and wellness with a particular focus on nutrition, physical activity, access to culturally appropriate health care services, and current health conditions. The project is utilizing innovative methods to engage communities and caregivers in a community driven participatory approach to understand the health of Indigenous seniors and opportunities to improve the situation for seniors and caregivers living in northern Canada.
In 2018, I received another grant from CIHR for a five-year Indigenous maternal and infant project, titled "Implementing culturally appropriate, evidence-based, and community-driven interventions to improve maternal health among Indigenous women in Northern Canada". This collaborative project is working with three communities in NT to document the availability of, utilization of, and experiences with maternal healthcare services during pregnancy. The project will also identify barriers to, and opportunities for, improving maternal health outcomes. This project will utilize the evidence we collect to inform the development, implementation, and evaluation of an intervention to address the maternal and infant health concerns of Indigenous communities and improve access to and experiences with maternal health and support services.
My projects in Edmonton included the Caring and Responding Edmonton (CARE) project, funded by the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation, which worked with community organizations in Edmonton that support some of the most vulnerable populations to identify barriers to accessing health care services, as well as opportunities for improving utilization and health care service experiences. Based on this evidence, we then implemented evidence-based health advocacy intervention programs with the partnering organizations.
Since the start of the pandemic, our work has focused on partnering with 17 communities in NT and NU to identify the anticipated and unanticipated consequences of COVID-19 and COVID-19 prevention strategies on all aspects of health, including physical, mental, social, emotional, and spiritual. This important research also includes collecting information on how the pandemic has affected experiences accessing healthcare in the Arctic as well as COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and recommendations for improving public health messaging and confidence in science. Through a grant from the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force/Public Health Agency of Canada, we are also working to document the side effects Northern Indigenous peoples experience from the COVID-19 vaccine and overall vaccine effectiveness.
Recent membership on Panels, Boards, Working Groups, Networks
- Canadian Institutes of Health Research College of Reviewers
- Indigenous Health Core Committee, Population, Public and Indigenous Health Strategic Clinical Network, Alberta Health Services
- Government of the Northwest Territories Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research National Governing Council
- The Nutrition Society, UK
Awards and accolades
- Canadian Academy of Health Sciences Fellow, 2019
- Alberta Medical Association Medal of Honor, 2017
- Global Edmonton Woman of Vision, 2016-2017
- Paul Man Award for Excellence in Translational Research, 2012 (Postdoctoral Fellow recipient supervised by Dr. Sharma)
- Speaking of Food and Healthy Living Award, Dietitians of Canada, 2012
- European Nutrition Leadership Platform Advanced Programme, 2012
- Centennial Professorship, University of Alberta, 2011 - Present
- The Nutrition Society Silver Medal, 2010
- Dannon Institute Academic Mid-Career Nutrition Leadership Fellowship, 2010
- Special Commendation for Excellent Research, Caribbean Health Research Council, 2009
- European Nutrition Leadership Program Fellowship, 1996
- Final Year Research Project Prize, University of Wales, 1992
Indigenous health, new Canadian health, impacts of COVID-19, vaccine hesitancy, nutrition, chronic disease prevention, access to and experience with healthcare services
To create a world-renowned go-to place for sustainable, evidence-based intervention research working to enhance the health and well-being of Indigenous and multi-ethnic populations. The Indigenous and Global Health Research Group is improving health and reducing chronic disease prevalence among Indigenous peoples and multi-ethnic populations along community-identified research priority themes by generating evidence to inform, develop, implement, and evaluate sustainable community-based programs that build capacity and provide training and local employment.
Select ongoing projects
Gathering stories to inform culturally safe community strategies to improve trust in public health measures in Indigenous peoples in Northwest Territories, funded by CIHR
Assessing the impact of the current SARS-CoV-2 vaccine in Indigenous populations in Arctic Canada, funded by COVID-19 Immunity Task Force/Vaccine Surveillance Reference Group (Public Health Agency of Canada)
Assessing attitudes, barriers, and opportunities for human papillomavirus and COVID-19 vaccination to inform, develop, implement, and evaluate a culturally appropriate program for increasing utilization and addressing vaccination hesitancy in Arctic Canadian Indigenous communities
Indigenous communities’ perspectives on the most effective and culturally safe strategies and solutions for COVID-19 prevention among remote and isolated communities in Arctic Canada, funded by Hoffman-La Roche
CARE NT: Caring and Responding in the Northwest Territories, funded by CIHR
Capturing the anticipated/unanticipated consequences of COVID-19 and COVID-19 prevention, management, and treatment strategies among Indigenous peoples in Arctic communities, funded by CIHR
Implementing culturally appropriate, evidence-based, and community-driven interventions to improve maternal health among Indigenous women in Northern Canada, funded by CIHR
Culturally Appropriate Practical Solutions Relevant to Indigenous Seniors and Caregivers Of Remote Northern Communities (CAPRICORN), funded by CIHR