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UBC Reports | Vol. 47 | No. 13 | September 6, 2001

Community ties key to health promotion, director suggests

Co-ordination of social, economic and environmental influences needed to address health issues

Integrating knowledge from different disciplines and working directly with the community is the prescription for promoting health, according to the new director of the Institute of Health Promotion Research (IHPR) in the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

Dr. Annalee Yassi, who joined the institute this spring, is an occupational physician and epidemiologist who describes her approach as transdisciplinary.

"To really make a difference we need to co-ordinate how we address social, economic and environmental influences that affect the health of individuals, workforces and communities," says Yassi.

Yassi, who was recently named a Canada Research Chair in Multidisciplinary Health Research, has more than 20 years' experience in occupational medicine and specializes in the health of health-care workers.

"I saw IHPR -- which has a broad perspective and approach -- as an ideal home to bring my research interests together," says Yassi, who was a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) senior scientist. She is also the founding executive director of the Occupational Health and Safety Agency for Healthcare in B.C., a partnership of health-care employers and unions formed to promote the health of health-care workers.

Yassi aims to build on IHPR's existing capacity for community-based health research that focuses on collaboration among investigators, practitioners and decision-makers, in areas such as urban planning and international relations, as well as workplace safety and health.

"I want to empower people to understand what determines health, see them own the interventions to address these factors, and fully participate in evaluating the effectiveness of these efforts," she says.

She is the principal investigator of a CIHR study that looks at the well-being of health-care workers.

Valued at $2 million over five years, the initiative comprises nine projects that examine issues such as how work organization affects health, how best to prevent injuries and chemical exposure, and developing analytical tools for evaluating and addressing health problems of B.C. Health-care workers.

Working with unions, employers, government and the research community, Yassi hopes to decrease the high injury rate and stressors of health-care employees.

Common problems include musculoskeletal injury from patient handling as well as stress from heavy workloads and physically violent patients who may suffer from dementia, psychiatric problems or substance abuse.

Yassi is also involved in global health promotion issues. She leads a study of a community-based project in Havana, Cuba, that looks at various determinants of health such as housing, clean air and water, municipal infrastructure and cultural activities.

As a consultant to the World Health Organization, Yassi developed teaching materials to help international organizations learn more about the socio-economic, environmental and physical determinants of health. She has also recently published a major textbook on basic environmental health that has been translated into Spanish.

Working in the Middle East, Africa, Central Europe and Latin America, Yassi has helped university level instructors learn a more holistic approach to teaching occupational and environmental health.


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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