Preventing cancer through healthy living school policies
About one-third of all cancers can be prevented by healthy eating, being physically active and maintaining a healthy body weight. Schools can be a great place to promote healthy living early in life, but they often run into barriers to putting knowledge into action.
Dr Jessie-Lee McIsaac, a postdoctoral fellow at Dalhousie University in Halifax and co-chair of the Nova Scotia Alliance for Healthy Eating and Physical Activity, is trying to close this gap.
Dr McIsaac began her scientific career by completing a master’s degree and PhD at the University of Alberta, specializing in health promotion and public health, respectively. During her PhD studies, she made major contributions to understanding barriers that influence the implementation of effective cancer prevention strategies in schools as part of the Children’s Lifestyle And School-performance Study (CLASS) and became increasingly interested in translating this knowledge to action.
In recognition of her strong research track record and great potential, Dr McIsaac was awarded a Canadian Cancer Society Career Development Award in Prevention to support her establishment as a new scientist and a rising star in cancer prevention through the promotion of healthy living in children.
“The generous support from the Canadian Cancer Society will allow me to focus on building my program of research that is collaborative but independent from my supervisors. Through my research, I will work alongside government and other key partners to advance school policy interventions that support healthy eating and physical activity,” Dr McIsaac explains.
With the support of this award, Dr McIsaac is applying her expertise in population health and knowledge translation to support effective new school policies designed to increase physical activity and healthy eating in children in Nova Scotia – a province where cancer incidence rates are among the highest in the country. By tailoring current knowledge on healthy living school policies to address local circumstances and barriers to success, this work could have significant impact on the health and cancer risk of Nova Scotians early in life.
To perform this work, Dr McIsaac will be working with cancer prevention experts at both the Atlantic Health Promotion Research Centre (AHPRC) at Dalhousie University and the Society-funded Propel Centre for Population Health Impact at the University of Waterloo, while also gaining experience in policy through a placement with the Nova Scotia Departments of Education and Early Childhood Development and Health and Wellness. This experience will build a strong and unique foundation for a cancer research career that bridges the worlds of research, policy and practice to support cancer prevention through schools and other systems.
We look forward to watching Dr McIsaac grow as an independent researcher with the potential to make a major impact on cancer prevention in Nova Scotia and beyond.