Erica Phipps

PhD (candidate), Health Promotion, School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, Queen’s University

In 2011, I embarked upon what would become a game-changing experience for me. As executive director of the Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and Environment (CPCHE), I was invited to collaborate with Dr. Jeff Masuda and his CEHE colleagues on the Knowledge Leaders training program on equity-focused knowledge translation (EqKT) for early career practitioners in children’s environmental health. This experience opened my eyes to the potentially transformational impact of knowledge translation (KT) practice that explicitly values multiple forms of knowledge, addresses power differentials and, most importantly, invests in broadening the perspectives of and forging relationships among participants. This approach resonated with me, as it embodies principles that I’ve internalized – albeit rather unscientifically – in my years of facilitating multi-stakeholder efforts, whether internationally at the United Nations where I worked with developing countries on intersectoral chemicals management capacity, in my work to build a trilateral agenda for children’s environmental health protection at the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation, or in my 8+ years with CPCHE.

Motivated by my interest in EqKT and its potential to open up new solution pathways to the complex challenges that lie at the health-environment interface, in 2015 I embarked upon PhD studies in health promotion at Queen’s University, with Jeff Masuda as my advisor and supported by a Vanier scholarship. I am interested in exploring EqKT practice and its impact on intersectoral collaboration, a research question that I will pursue within a real-world project called RentSafe, a CPCHE-led initiative that seeks to address housing-related health risks affecting low-income tenants. Through this research I hope to contribute to the long tradition of KT innovation in Canada, while enriching my own capacity, and that of countless others working “in the trenches” of environmental health, to start to turn the tide on the tragic and avoidable stunting of human potential that happens when we allow our children’s developing bodies and brains to be exposed to environmental toxins. To this work I bring my academic background in public health (MPH, University of Michigan), my years of work as an environmental health professional and a sense of urgency – against the backdrop of toxic trespass, egregious income and health inequities and looming climate change – to help find a more sane way to exist on this planet.