Chris Buse brings his interdisciplinary expertise in public health, sociology and policy science to the forefront as the newest assistant professor in FHS.

New FHS professor advocates for interdisciplinary collaboration to tackle environmental health inequities

October 04, 2022

By: Geron Malbas

Chris Buse, the newest assistant professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS), brings a background in public health, sociology and public policy to his focus on environmental health inequities.

“My goal is to improve health equity by bringing the ecological determinants of health into focus—to understand how environmental issues like climate change and land-use planning interact with social conditions like poverty and discrimination. By addressing social and environmental issues together, we can improve population health and reduce environmental health inequalities.”

Dr. Buse’s research focuses on these core themes:

  1. The human health impacts of climate change and the public health response:
    He led some of Canada’s first comprehensive climate change and health vulnerability assessments, and wrote some of Canada’s first publications on health equity impacts of climate change and the public health response. In collaboration with the BC Ministry of Health, Dr. Buse also co-led the province’s baseline assessment of the health system's resilience to climate change impacts.
  2. The cumulative environmental, community and health impacts of resource extraction and development:
    He convened community-engaged research processes to prioritize indicators and generate integrative models that combine environmental, socioeconomic and human health data into a singular measure of cumulative effects.

In the first years of his appointment, Dr. Buse will continue to pilot integrative cumulative impacts screening methods in collaboration with government officials and community partners. He is also working with health system partners in BC to support the implementation of climate change and health vulnerability assessments, and leading a review of public health evidence on climate change adaptation to help prioritize innovative programs and policies that will build climate-resilient health systems in BC and beyond.

Buse notes that the impact of environmental change on human health is moderated by the social determinants of health, and that the health of ecosystems is integrally tied to the health of individuals and communities.  “Unfairness in the systems and structures of our society leads to poorer environmental health outcomes for some populations relative to others, and those least responsible for contributing to human-caused environmental change are the most at risk of adverse health outcomes,” he explains.

He also points out that cooperative, intersectoral action is necessary to promote planetary health: “Whether we’re talking about the climate crisis, biodiversity loss, ocean acidification, or resource depletion, all of these pose existential threats to humans and the other non-human species with whom we share the Earth. We require ‘all hands-on deck’ to move towards a more sustainable and equitable future.”

His training includes degrees in sociology and political science at the University of Alberta (BA, 2006); sociology and the social determinants of health from the University of British Columbia (UBC) (MA, 2009); and environmental public health at the Dalla Lana School of Public health at the University of Toronto (PhD, 2015).

Most recently, he was a CIHR Postdoctoral Fellow (2018-2021) and Senior Research Scientist at UBC, and both an MSFHR Postdoctoral Fellow (2016-2018) and Adjunct Professor at the University of Northern BC.

SFU’s reputation as the engaged university attracted Buse to join as a new faculty member, as working alongside diverse populations and areas of thought is essential to him in recognizing how environments differentially impact people. With FHS’s focus on planetary health as a research challenge area, he is excited to bring his research and teaching expertise to an interdisciplinary faculty that encourages faculty and students from diverse backgrounds to work together to solve complex problems.

“I’m excited to lead experiential and applied environmental public health education to support the training of the next generation of public health practitioners and researchers prepared to address the ecological and planetary health challenges of the 21st century.”