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National award recognizes Global Health grad for knowledge translation

MSc Global Health graduate Sherry Nesbitt

MSc Global Health graduate Sherry Nesbitt, winner of the National Collaborating Centres for Public Health Knowledge Translation Award.

By Ruth Adair, May 9, 2019

Recent MSc Global Health program graduate Sherry Nesbitt has won this year’s National Collaborating Centres for Public Health (NCCPH) Knowledge Translation Award, which recognizes graduate students in Canada for outstanding work in knowledge translation (KT).

Nesbitt’s project involved using both traditional and innovative KT activities with an ultimate goal of translating new knowledge into public health action, both nationally and internationally, that will benefit older women.

Throughout her thesis research, which focuses on experiences of social exclusion among older women in a rural Canadian context, Nesbitt has been a passionate advocate for the health needs of older women. And she hopes her research will be used to inform public health global health policy. 

“Rural women in particular face multiple exclusion from the lives they want to lead, and I was interested in learning more about those experiences,” explains Nesbitt.

Using the knowledge acquired through her research, Nesbitt is now engaging with her public health unit and local community to address emergent older adult health issues and marginalization within rural communities. She has also reached out to international counterparts working on social exclusion to expand the reach of their collective research efforts.  

“Beyond simply programming for participation, public health programs should focus on fostering a sense of belonging and peer connection for older women,” says Nesbitt. In addition, she says that public health practitioners should consider "unconventional channels of engagement" – such as churches or synagogues, for example – to reach otherwise more isolated older women.

Nesbitt's research also brings to light the important role that gender plays on individual experiences of illness, health and wellbeing. “Research needs to be sensitive to the ways in which gender shapes experiences,” she says.

Through her work as a Registered Nurse in public health, Nesbitt has seen firsthand the ways in which different types of knowledge are used to change practice, inform programming, and influence policy change.

“Knowledge translation plays a key role in bringing research knowledge to life and is critical to effective decision making in global health policy and practice,” explains Nesbitt, who credits the Global Health program with helping to fuel her passion for leadership to make a difference.

“The program has sustained my belief that we really can achieve a significant impact on global health,” she says. “Whether we’re conducting research or implementing health policy, it’s through our collective efforts, effective knowledge translation, and ethical strong leadership that our capacity to effect change will have the greatest impact.”

Nesbitt is one of three winners who accepted the NCCPH award on May 1 at Public Health 2019, the annual Canadian Public Health Association conference in Ottawa. She also presented her work at the NCC collaborator session.