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Spotlight on: University of South-Eastern Norway professor Steffen Torp

University of South-Eastern Norway (USN) Professor Steffen Torp

University of South-Eastern Norway (USN) Professor Steffen Torp.

July 3, 2018

The ever-evolving partnership between McMaster and USN, funded by a High North program grant, has resulted in many student and faculty exchanges and collaborative research projects, including a field practicum, led by University of South-Eastern Norway (USN) Professor Steffen Torp. Currently, Torp is working with McMaster MSc Global Health student Kristy Yiu to investigate the viability of a new global health master’s program at USN.

“Our collaboration with McMaster has helped us realize that we need more than an elective course in global health,” says Torp, referring to USN’s joint course with McMaster, Global Transitions within local communities. Small places, big changes, which was developed with the help of global health student Doug Miller, back in 2016.

“We’re now aiming to establish our own global health program at USN, and the insights we’ve gained from McMaster students have been invaluable.”

Torp, a professor in the Department of Health, Social and Welfare Studies at USN, brings to the Global Health program rich experience in health promotion. He is involved in several projects that explore the social determinants of health, specifically in the context of work and working life – one of which focuses on diversity in the workplace, and the challenges faced by young people with mental health issues and reduced functioning, as well as those from different cultural backgrounds.

“Right now, the poorest and most vulnerable people in Norway are migrants,” he explains, “and I’m interested in looking at approaches other countries like Canada are taking, with respect to equity, migrant health, and diversity in the workplace.” Earlier this year, Canada’s Ambassador to Norway, Artur Wilczynski, shed light on some of these issues in a lecture to global health students as part of McMaster’s joint course with USN.

Having trained as a physiotherapist, Torp began his career in occupational health. But after working clinically with patients in organizational settings, he decided he wanted to learn more about the reasons behind his patients’ ailments, and contribute in meaningful ways to workplace health and wellbeing. He became an organizational psychologist, and from there got into health promotion. “In my experience, I’ve come to realize that health is more than about the absence of disease,” he explains. “It’s about quality of life, and happiness.”

Torp believes that it’s important to take action when it comes to the social determinants of health, and that partnerships in higher education like the one between USN and McMaster are critical to achieving real progress. “To reduce health inequities, we need to share perspectives and strategies while working together in a way that’s mutually beneficial,” he says.