My research contributes towards the environment and public health fields by highlighting the importance of social relations and local knowledge in promoting community health. I believe a pragmatic approach based on the lived experiences of residents is best suited to understanding why people make the choices they do in everyday life. My interests have brought me to the varied contexts of my research including the offices of policy-makers in Iqaluit and Ottawa, the community freezer in Nain, and the yards of residents in Calgary, London, and Halifax. I have been engaged in multiple projects focused on the social aspects of environmental health policies and programs, some of which are highlighted below:
2011-2013 Principal Investigator, Iqaluit to Ottawa Knowledge Tracking Pilot Project
The main goal of this collaborative pilot project has been to work with local stakeholders in Iqaluit to develop a tool for evaluating how local research messages are exchanged and used by policy actors in Iqaluit and Ottawa. To do this we have developed a two-step approach: 1. we have created a network map, informed by social network analysis, illustrating the policy actors who have received a country food security message disseminated by the Qaujigiartiit Health Research Centre (QHRC) in Iqaluit; and 2. we interviewed some of these decision makers to learn more about how they use this message in their jobs. We found that this two-step approach is necessary to be able to first identify ‘message users’ and then to understand how these policy actors are using a local research message to address the issue of country food security. We are excited to announce the release of our guide to knowledge tracking. This diagnostic tool outlines how community-based research groups can track the exchange and use of a local messages across multiple policy scales drawing on techniques in social network analysis and content analysis. Through this work I am now associated with a large network of colleagues who are interested in building local research and evaluation capacity in the area of environmental health knowledge translation.
- Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (role: standard research grant recipient)
- Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University (role: research grant co-recipient with Bonnie Kettel)
- Arctic Network of Centres of Excellence of Canada (role: project collaborator) [more info…]
- Arctic Borderlands Ecological Knowledge Co-op
- Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability
PDF Supervisors: Drs. Bonnie Kettel and Martin Bunch, York University
2012-2013 Co-investigator, Participatory Evaluation of the Nunatsiavut Government’s Nain Community Freezer (NCF) Pilot Youth Outreach Program
Aullak, sangilivallianginnatuk (Going off, Growing strong) is the first project of its kind in Canada focused on bringing together youth and harvesters to improve a community freezer program. The overall goal is to help build the resiliency of a group of youth in the face of widespread social, environmental, and cultural change. This pilot project is about building connections (social and environmental) and evaluating the success of a community freezer and pilot youth outreach program that aims to enhance the mental, physical, and spiritual health of a group of youth in Nain, Nunatsiavut. This first group of ten youth started the program in March 2012 and have recently completed the program becoming Junior Harvesters. We have been monitoring the success or ‘impact’ of the pilot program through: stakeholder engagement, formal outcome assessment, and rigorous documentation and tracking of program activities. Program evaluation and reflection is currently being carried out together with program staff and a community-based steering committee. In 2012, I was able to live my research by residing in Nain where I helped guide program and evaluation planning and engaged in the study of evaluation techniques for community-based health interventions.
- First Nations and Inuit Health Branch of Health Canada (role: research adviser; co-authored two grant applications)
- Nunatsiavut Government’s Harvesting Compensation Committee (role: research adviser; co-authored two grant applications)
- Labrador Grenfell Health Authority (role: research adviser; co-authored one grant application)
- Nutrition North Canada through the Nunatsiavut Government Department of Health and Social Development (role: research adviser)
- Ulapitsaijet (role: research adviser)
- Labrador Institute and Faculty of Arts, Memorial University (role: travel and research grants recipient)
- Arctic Network of Centres of Excellence of Canada (role: postdoctoral fellow)
- Nunatsiavut Government Environment Division (role: recipient of in-kind support)
- Inuit Traditional Knowledge for Adapting to the Health Effects of Climate Change Project (role: postdoctoral fellow) [more info…]
Project Leads: Environment Division of the Nunatsiavut Government and the Community of Nain
- Community member representatives: parents, youth, harvesters
- Nain Inuit Community Government: AngajukKâk (town manager) and other staff
- Nunatsiavut Government: Department of Health and Social Development and Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism
- Labrador Grenfell Health Authority
- kANGIDLUASUk Student Program Inc.
- Jens Haven Memorial School
PDF Supervisors: Drs. Chris Furgal, Trent University and Trevor Bell, Memorial University
2004-2005 Co-investigator, Comparison of Pesticide Risk Views in Halifax, Calgary, and London
My doctoral research is grounded in health and hazards geography with a particular interest in the social-cultural context of everyday decision-making about risky behaviours such as residential pesticide use. Questionnaire surveys of Calgary, Halifax, and London residents analyzed using multivariate techniques, reveal that social context variables such as the presence of a weed-free aesthetic or a desire to avoid conflict are as important in determining policy preferences as health risk perception factors. This highlights the need to focus environmental health policy analysis at the grass roots, in people’s everyday lives; rather than, from the top down. Further in-depth inquiry using narrative policy analysis of qualitative interview data illustrates that, although residents are generally divided about the appropriateness of pesticide bans, they are more concerned with balancing perceived aesthetic and health risks in order to get along in the neighbourhood context. Additionally, residents generally agree with the reduction of non-essential pesticide use and are open to alternatives to chemical pesticides. This indicates that municipal policy-making about pesticides must be sensitive to the complexities inherent in the yard as a socially contested space. Thus, the success of environmental health management at any level may depend on our understandings of the “social” at the local level.
Funding: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (role: dissertation research)
PhD Supervisor: Dr. Jamie Baxter, University of Western Ontario