Denise Spitzer, PhD, MA, BA, BSc

Professor, School of Public Health


Professor, School of Public Health



I am a critical feminist medical anthropologist by training and inclination. Using a dynamic, multi-scalar lens, I am interested in examining how global processes—intersecting with gender, racialization, migration status, sexuality, ethnicity, and other social identifiers—are implicated in health and wellbeing. 

My current program of research focuses on the impact of the global economy on immigrants, migrants and refugees in different parts of the globe—most notably Southeast and East Asia, Canada and the Horn of Africa—and engages with critical perspectives of the body, transnationalism and constructions of identity; the impact of policy on health; community-based participatory research; and intersectional analysis. 

In addition to my role as professor in the School of Public Health, I am an adjunct professor in the Institute of Feminist and Gender Studies at the University of Ottawa. Formerly, I served as the Canada Research Chair in Gender, Migration and Health and as Principal Scientist in the Institute of Population Health from 2005-2015.


PhD (Anthropology), University of Alberta, 1998

MA (Anthropology), University of Alberta, 1993

BA (Chinese Language and Literature), University of Alberta, 1991

BSc (Biology), University of Alberta, 1978




global health

participatory research

qualitative research

qualitative research

visual storytelling

impact of neoliberal globalization and polices on health and well-being


SPH 517 - Strategies in Health Promotion Practice

An analysis of the principles of intervention at individual, community, organization and policy development levels. An overview of the strategies used in the practice of health promotion/evaluation and their application in a variety of health promotion settings (e.g., schools, the workplace, community and health centres). Prerequisite: SPH 501. Note: Credit may not be obtained for both HPS 505 and SPH 517. May contain alternate delivery sections; refer to the Tuition and Fees page in the University Regulations section of the Calendar.

Fall Term 2021
SPH 622 - Theory and Practice of Health Promotion Interventions

A critical examination of intervention strategies, implementation, and research evidence in health promotion practice. Note: Credit may not be obtained for both HPS 602 and SPH 622. May contain alternate delivery sections; refer to the Tuition and Fees page in the University Regulations section of the Calendar.

Winter Term 2022

Browse more courses taught by Denise Spitzer

Scholarly Activities

Research - Forced Sterilization and Coerced Contraception: Towards a Multinational Agenda —funded by the Kule Institute for Advanced Studies

2021 - 2023

Principal Investigator

Non-consensual control over women's reproduction comprises a continuum of practices including forced sterilization and coerced contraception (FSCC). Although the full extent of these state-sanctioned practices is yet to be uncovered, Indigenous, migrant and rural poor women appear to be particular targets of these interventions. Our team of researchers, advocates, and health practitioners are engaging with survivors of FSCC in Canada, Indonesia, and Peru using arts-based methods. The project culminates in an international summit, the goal of which is to generate a survivor-centred research agenda.

Research - Intersections of Gender, Work, and Health: Migrant Beer Sellers in Southeast Asia, funded by CIHR Operating Grant

2014 - 2019

Principal Investigator

Throughout Southeast Asia, young women, primarily rural-to-urban migrants work, often on commission, selling beer in bars, restaurants, nightclubs and other venues.  Employing and training migrant beer sellers as research assistants, we are documenting the workplace hazards faced by migrant women beer sellers in different types of venues in three Southeast Asian countries (Thailand, Cambodia, Laos). In addition to generating recommendations to mitigate the deleterious aspects of beer sellers’ work, this research contributes to our understanding of how gender, work, and health intersect with other social identifiers such as socioeconomic class, migrant status, geography, sexuality and culture.   

Research - Lives of Migrant Remittances: An Asian Comparative Study, funded by SSHRC Insight Grant

2017 - 2022

Principal Investigator

Migration has been promoted as a tool of development by a host of global institutions and is embraced both by labour migrant sending and receiving countries. The empirical evidence, however, in support of this assertion remains scant, and that which exists indicates mixed results. We focus on Hong Kong, a major migrant labour hub to investigate and compare interconnected transnational social fields that link migrants, families, governments, and institutions from, across, and within the two largest migrant sending countries in the region---the Philippines and Indonesia.

Research - The Ottawa Ogaden Region Research Partnership, funded by SSHRC Partnership Development Grant.

2014 - 2019

Principal Investigator

Located in the Somali Region of Ethiopia, Denan, which serves as a centre of education, health care and community economic development, is at once a medical outpost and the town that has grown around it. We are undertaking an examination of Denan as a case study through which we can illuminate the impact of this health/community centre model on the local population and the livelihoods that sustain it. Furthermore, we work to create a more equitable international academic-NGO partnership by developing a model of community-based participatory research grounded in local conditions and talents, and engaging in reciprocal knowledge exchange.

Research - Visioning Health II: Indigenous, Participatory Evaluation and Assessment of a Culturally-Grounded and Arts-Informed Intervention for HIV-Positive Aboriginal Women.

2015 - 2019


Visioning Health II supports and evaluates a strengths-based, arts-informed, and culturally-grounded community-based participatory research project that explores the meaning and experience of health and wellness from the perspective of Positive Aboriginal Women (PAW). Guided by a decolonizing and Indigenous approach to research, VH II also explores the role of culture and gender in creating, supporting and maintaining PAWs' health and wellness.


Oppression and Im/migrant Health in Canada.
Author(s): Spitzer, D. L., Torres, S.
Publication Date: 5/1/2021
Publication: Oppression and Health, 2nd Edition, Elizabeth McGibbon, editor.
Volume: Halifax: Fernwood Press.
Page Numbers: pp. 119-133.

Working Intimacies: Migrant Beer Sellers, Surveillance, and Intimate Labour in Southeast Asia.
Author(s): Spitzer, D. L.
Publication Date: 4/8/2021
Publication: Gender, Work, and Organization
Issue: DOI: 10.1111/gwao.12646

Towards Inclusive Migrant Health Care.
Author(s): Spitzer, D. L., Torres, S., Zwi, A., Khalema, E., Palaganas, E.
Publication Date: 6/8/2019
Publication: BMJ
Volume: 366
Issue: DOI 10.1136/bmj.14256

Engendered Movements: Migration, Gender, and Health in a Globalized World
Author(s): Spitzer, D. L.
Publication Date: 2016
Publication: Handbook of Gender and Health, Jasmine Gideon, editor.
Volume: London: Elgar
Page Numbers: 251-267

Migration and Health through an Intersectional Lens
Author(s): Spitzer, D. L.
Publication Date: 2016
Publication: Handbook of Migration and Health, Felicity Thomas and Jasmine Gideon, eds.
Volume: London: Elgar
Page Numbers: 75-94

Return Migrant Entrepreneurship and the Migration and Development Agenda: A Focus on Filipino and Indonesian Migrant Workers
Author(s): Spitzer, D. L.
Publication Date: 2016
Publication: Migration, Mobility, & Displacement
Volume: 2
Issue: 2
Page Numbers: 24-39

Retrenched and Returned: Filipino Migrant Workers During Times of Crisis
Author(s): Spitzer, D. L., Piper, N.
Publication Date: 2014
Publication: Sociology
Volume: 48
Issue: 5
Page Numbers: 1007-1023

Engendering Migrant Health: Canadian Perspectives
Author(s): Spitzer, D. L., editor
Publication Date: 2011
Publication: Toronto: University of Toronto Press