Dr. Kim Raine, University of Alberta
Dr. Kim Raine's Chair is supported by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada (HSFC), the CIHR Institute of Population and Public Health, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), and the Centre de recherche pour la prévention de l'obésité (CRPO).
Inactivity and overeating crept into our culture to create an obesity epidemic - but a leading Alberta researcher is confident Canadians can change
Dr. Kim Raine doesn’t need to look far to see how much life has changed in a short time. Just as far as the mouse that sits beside her computer.
“In my job, I read and research a lot of papers and articles,” says the University of Alberta professor who has been named one of Canada’s 15 applied public health chairs. “As recently as five years ago I would walk to the university library, retrieve the journals from the stacks, make my notes or go to a photocopier and then walk back to my office. Now I don’t have to do anything more than click my mouse to get the same result.”
It is exactly these kinds of day-to-day changes – conveniences that have crept in over time – that have led to Canadians living more sedentary lives says Dr. Raine. Combined with over-eating, they have fanned an obesity epidemic that, in turn, is sparking a boom in diabetes, cancer, and heart disease and stroke. “Over the past 20 years, we have doubled to tripled our rates of obesity.”
Dr. Raine’s appointment as applied public health chair marks an important step in the battle against obesity. The research chair is supported by the HSFC, the CIHR Institute of Population and Public Health, and the Public Health Agency of Canada.
“My understanding is that the chairs will take high-quality research − particularly intervention research − and help to integrate it into communities and Canadian society,” says Dr. Raine. “It means facilitating change in the real world.”
Dr. Raine’s research attempts to understand and counter the changes in our society that have contributed to creating this culture of inactivity and over-eating.
“For example, it’s one thing to understand that we’ve created a culture in our schools where, in order to get a new scoreboard, they have to enter into a contract with a soft drink company,” says Dr. Raine. “But then, how do you deal with that? My focus will be to take all the research we’re doing to see what interventions work best. Beyond that, how do we translate it to decision-makers who can then apply it on a larger scale?”
An intervention can be something as simple as making sure those high school vending machines also have fruit juices and water available.
“We need interventions in the social environment to make it more acceptable to be active and eat a healthy diet,” says Dr. Raine.
While the task of overcoming obesity seems daunting, Dr. Raine is optimistic it can – and will – be done.
"I look at the tobacco reduction success of the past 30 to 40 years and think 'Wow, who would have ever thought it would have been illegal to light up a cigarette in a public place?' We can learn from the successes of tobacco. I just hope it won't take us as long."
Fast facts about: Dr. Kim Raine
- describes herself as "a nutritionist by profession."
- is principal investigator of the national research program Promoting Optimal Weights through Ecological Research (POWER), funded by CIHR and the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
Quote: “In public health research it's not like you're working away at a lab bench and then submitting a paper for a journal so that other people working in that area will read it and build on it. In public health you don't have a controlled environment. It's the real world out there.”