UFV recently welcomed Dr. Cindy Jardine as the third Canadian Research Chair currently at UFV. Jardine’s research lies in the area of health risk communication, a relatively new field born from the need to better communicate the health risks associated with behaviour, lifestyle, and environmental factors to the public.

While at UFV, Jardine will work on three major projects. The first will be her continued work with Indigenous youths on developing health messaging through photobooks and videos. The youth take pictures and produce videos to express their opinions and feelings on health topics in their community, including physical activity, diet, or activities that could have adverse health risks.

The second project will address suicide intervention through the use of forum theatre in five Indigenous communities. Youth put on a fictional play drawn from their own experiences on an aspect of mental health, with the goal being to address these issues in hopes that youth will see others ways besides suicide to solve their problems.

Jardine’s third project will look at the barriers faced by Canada’s immigrant and refugee populations against immunization, and reasons for the under immunization within these groups.

Jardine got her Bachelor of Science in biology, and worked as a provincial biologist for many years. She went on to do her master’s degree in environmental engineering, but realized that the health risks concerning environmental issues were poorly communicated to people. She continued on to get her PhD in public health, specifically in environmental health and risk communications.

Do you remember a specific point that made you transition from environmental science to public health?
I think it was at a public meeting in northern Ontario. I was there representing the Ontario government, and we were talking about pulp mills, and pollution from pulp mills at the time. And I thought, “Continuing to hammer home the science of pulp mills isn’t making these people any less apprehensive, and any more assured that their health is being protected, and there doesn’t seem to be any real mechanism to incorporate any of that feedback into the decision making process.” It took a few years before I actively did anything about it, but I think that was the point at which I thought there was more involved in this than just doing good science. We need to do good science, but just good science doesn’t always translate into good decisions for people

You’ve certainly got your hands full with projects.
Yes, I was blessed and cursed last year in that I got three large grants. I say that, but every researcher’s dream is to get a large grant. Getting three of them at once means it’s an “OMG” moment of “Oh, now I need to get three large multicentre research projects up and going, involving multiple researchers and locations and time zones,” and things like that. But, it’s a good way to be challenged.

Do you feel like your work makes a long-term impact on these Indigenous communities?
Well, long-term impact is so hard to measure on research projects, you know. Some of the advantages I’ve had while working with one community, though, is that I’ve had that continuity where I get to see how doing one research project makes a difference.

With the Yellowknife Dene First Nations, for example, last year, after one of the out-on-the-land culture camps, the youth who were involved independently decided that they didn’t just want to be involved with one-off activities that we coordinated. They wanted some sort of coordinated, more permanent means of having a voice in their community around health and environmental issues. So, they have independently created a youth society that is going to decide what research they think is of interest, and that they would like to be involved in. I’m really excited about this, because this is something that will outlive my research projects. And ultimately, that’s my goal.

How do you feel about the UFV community so far?
I love it here. I love the enthusiasm for the type of work that I do. I love that people think it’s important to work with communities, and that they understand what working with communities entails. Sometimes, being at a large research institute, you get compared to people who do primarily laboratory-based research, and my research is very different, and has different kinds of timelines and outputs associated with it. UFV really understands that, and finds value in that.