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
"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
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
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
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
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.