l-r: Health sciences professors Angela Kaida and Kelley Lee are working to advance global health and equity.

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National list acknowledges SFU health sciences researchers advancing global health

December 04, 2018
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By Diane Luckow

Innovative and sometimes unconventional research has catapulted SFU health sciences professors Kelley Lee and Angela Kaida onto an inaugural list of Canadian female leaders in global health.

The Canadian Society for International Health developed the list, Canadian Women in Global Health 2018, to increase the visibility and reputation of Canadian women working to advance global health and equity.

Both Lee and Kaida hold Canada Research Chairs and are each pursuing very different research programs that are generating improvements in global health policies.

Professor Kelley Lee

Lee, a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Global Health Governance, is one of the world’s foremost experts on the World Health Organization. She coined the term global health governance, and collaborates with governments and global health institutions to accelerate positive social and health-policy changes, and to find innovative ways for such institutions to work more effectively.

She became a leader in advancing global tobacco control after forming an international research team to acquire and study millions of internal tobacco-industry documents from British American Tobacco.

“In my tobacco control work we have needed to go beyond conventional public health research methods to understand how the tobacco industry, as powerful vested interests, are a transnational vector of disease,” says Lee.

Her multi-disciplinary research team is pushing research boundaries and going beyond traditional epidemiology or interventions to examine the upstream role that corporations play as part of what are increasingly referred to as the commercial determinants of health.

“Studying corporate behaviour and strategies as a determinant of health is a new and important trend,” Lee says, noting that public health organizations, the WHO, governments and civil society groups have all used the team’s research findings to support stronger tobacco control measures.

Professor Angela Kaida

Kaida holds the Canada Research Chair in Global Perspectives on HIV and Sexual and Reproductive Health. She is a principle investigator for a national team of researchers, clinicians, policy-makers, community advocates and women living with HIV. The team’s community-based research in Canada, Uganda and South Africa generates evidence for developing more effective social and health policies, and programs that can improve sexual and reproductive health and rights for HIV-affected individuals around the world.

Her research approach is considered innovative because it acknowledges that everyone, including people affected by HIV, have sexual and reproductive rights. Another innovation is the team’s commitment to hiring, training, supporting, and compensating women living with HIV to work with study teams as research associates.

“It’s a really different, meaningful, and effective way of approaching health sciences research,” says Kaida. “We don’t talk about conducting research only for communities. Rather, we’re leading community-based research by, with, and for women living with HIV in Canada.”

An important global impact of her research is a new understanding of how women living with HIV can safely conceive a baby without transmitting HIV to their HIV-negative partner.

“We recently published a consensus statement with a team of international authors that summarized the scientific evidence for promoting safer conception. It advocated for safer conception care to support HIV-affected people who want to have children to do so without risk of transmitting HIV to the uninfected partner or future baby. The paper has been endorsed by more than 50 leading HIV and reproductive health organizations and individuals around the world.”

“Our research is bringing new perspectives and new evidence to long-standing discussions about sexual and reproductive health in the context of HIV,” says Kaida. “We’re dedicated to doing our part to ensure that this science is used to inform policy and programming decisions that improve sexual and reproductive health outcomes for HIV-affected folks in Canada and around the world.”