Laura MacNiven
M.Ed. grad Laura MacNiven focuses on children’s health education

Passion for health inspires M.Ed. grad

October 8, 2009

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By Roberta Staley

For Laura MacNiven, who convocates this month with an M.Ed. in health education and physical activity, what drove her research was the question of which teaching methods illuminated students’ understanding and inspired them to make positive changes in their lives. MacNiven focused on health curriculum development due to a "passion for health" inherited from her physician parents. She worked in a variety of settings developing and implementing skills-based health curricula.

That included working with children and teens afflicted with eating disorders at B.C. Children’s Hospital where she adapted the current "empowerment theory", which holds that telling kids "what to eat and what not to eat" is an ineffective form of teaching. Instead, says MacNiven, tutoring them in the skills that lead them to make healthy choices will effect improvement in behaviour.

The London, Ont., native also made forays into Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside as an academic learner with the Canadian Institutes for Health Research-funded Partnering in Community Health Research program.

The objective of the study was to explore concepts of health and social justice based upon input from residents in the community. The idea was to see participants as collaborators in the goal of gaining a more comprehensive understanding of what makes a community healthy or unhealthy.

MacNiven’s studies also encompassed the province’s K-12 health curriculum. Through a comparison of international curriculum documents, she recommended a revamped program and better teacher training to improve the education system’s "poor job of promoting health in our youth."

She will soon take her passion for health education to Toronto, where she is opening a medical clinic in partnership with a family-practice physician. The unique clinic will marry pharmacological therapy with educational and health support for the families of children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Says MacNiven: "The program at SFU let me learn and develop a skills that have put me in the position to create this new clinic."


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Wow! Way to go Laura, your research sounds fantastic and very important. Congratulations!!

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