Recent research on lifestyle-related interventions suggests that understanding setting (also referred to as context or environment) is central to the success of public health programs, policies, and practice. This means that the places where program and policy initiatives occur are just as important as the design of an intervention and the characteristics of the people involved.
The social environment, the built (or physical) environment, and an individual’s characteristics and behaviours work together to shape opportunities and barriers for individual and community health. Where a person lives, when and how they access the things they need in their daily life, and the policies that create their social, political, and economic environments all matter for his or her health. Therefore, understanding the relationships between people, policy, and place is essential for health promotion and public health.
The purpose of the Policy, Location, and Access in Community Environments (PLACE) research lab is to contribute to a better understanding of the people-policy-place relationships in chronic disease interventions and prevention initiatives. Work in the PLACE lab involves community-based participatory research, qualitative and quantitative methodologies, and GIS mapping.
PLACE research activities span three areas of investigation:
- program and policy initiatives, including (i) how they evolve; and (ii) how they shape particular settings (e.g., neighbourhoods, schools, workplaces, communities);
- community-based studies of opportunities for and barriers to healthy choices in the built and social environment; and,
- knowledge exchange, or interactions between research and practice to support knowledge sharing and use.
Dr. Candace Nykiforuk is the principal investigator of the PLACE lab.