Dr. Nicole F. Bernier
Research scholar with the Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec
My interest in population health intervention research goes back to the early 2000s when opportunities were created in Canada to encourage the development of new health research niches requiring expertise in the social sciences. With my doctorate in political science and specializing in Canadian social policy, I began a postdoctorate in this field, which is so rarely explored by political scientists. Having in the meantime become a professor, I oriented my research more specifically toward studying the content of public legislation, policies and programs dealing with population health, as well as toward the often complex processes involved in developing and redefining such legislation, policies and programs.
Policy considerations are always delicate. That being said, governmental directions and political activities from diverse groups influence the type of interventions that are likely to be implemented, and they must be highlighted. I very much enjoy conceptual and intellectual challenges and have a definite liking for avant-garde research. Over the past several years I have been able to appreciate the combination of extraordinary possibilities and equally extraordinary obstacles involved in integrating the knowledge and practices which are often unknown and unrecognized in this research area.
Dr. Patty Williams
Canada Research Chair in Food Security and Policy Change Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and CIHR-Funded Investigator
I began working in population health intervention research about 10 years ago as a postdoctoral fellow at the Atlantic Health Promotion Research Center and new faculty member in Applied Human Nutrition at Mount Saint Vincent University. My first study, in partnership with the Nova Scotia Nutrition Council, focused on the local involvement of 21 family resource centres/projects and their participants in participatory food costing. This led to a sustainable network of research partners from many different sectors committed to investigating how participatory action research (PAR) processes can build capacity to influence food security related policy. Using dialogue methods and PAR approaches, we have effectively engaged groups with diverse perspectives on food security to consider ‘the other’s’ point of view, challenging assumptions, building knowledge, and exploring food security implications of policy at local, regional and national levels. This work has been at the forefront of provincial and national efforts to address food insecurity, and in 2004/05 led to the development of a model for provincial participatory food costing that was subsequently funded by the Nova Scotia Department of Health Promotion and Protection (2006-2011) as part of Healthy Eating Nova Scotia.
We have shown that PAR builds capacity to address food insecurity through policy change. The evidence generated to date, and PAR processes used, have influenced both policy and practice in Nova Scotia, (e.g., changes to Income Assistance policies and government strategies) and has been used by many other locales working on policy-oriented approaches to food insecurity. In addition, the lessons learned through these projects have contributed to the development of a web-accessible, plain language, bilingual workbook, “Thought About Food? A Workbook on Food Security & Influencing Policy”.
Dr. Melanie Rock
Population Health Intervention Research Centre, University of Calgary
Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research Population Health Investigator
Without knowing it, I began to work in population health intervention research about ten years ago as a doctoral student in anthropology. For example, I traced and analyzed why the Canadian government was beginning to put greater emphasis on diabetes in health and scientific policies. Later, as a postdoctoral fellow, I studied the question of food insecurity, and why government policies and programs have not really stressed prevention. Since taking up a faculty position, I have created a research program to investigate potential links between the care that people provide to their animals as a strategic opportunity to promote health and to identify barriers to health.
Research on events and processes that could influence the health of entire populations is crucial for helping people to live in good health for as long as possible. This research agenda is crucially important, from a practical perspective, yet challenging. Intellectually speaking, I have enjoyed the 'puzzles' that we encounter in population health intervention research, as well as its transdisciplinary nature.
Dr. David Hammond
Assistant Professor, Health Studies and Gerontology, University of Waterloo
CIHR-funded Researcher and Population and Public Health Award Recipient
I have used population health research to evaluate existing health policy and regulations, as well as to explore the impact of novel interventions. Much of my work has been in the area of tobacco control to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions that have a broad reach, such as health warnings on tobacco packaging, bans on advertising, as well as the use and uptake of stop-smoking medications. I have been able to work closely with governments around the world to advise on tobacco policies and regulations, including the first international public health treaty, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
The primary benefit of population health intervention research is high-quality evidence that can inform policy. My work seeks to provide decision makers with the best possible evidence to guide policies and regulations. This kind of research also focuses on evaluating the impact of interventions in a "real-world" context, as well as identifying key gaps and needs.
There are a growing number of funding and research opportunities related to population health. Most importantly, conducting population health research on interventions is an excellent way of having impact and ensuring the relevance of health research.