Jennifer Walker Receives OPHA’s 2017 Award of Excellence

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Laurentian University is proud to congratulate Dr. Jennifer Walker on receiving the Ontario Public Health Association (OPHA)’s 2017 Award of Excellence. The award—one of only two Awards of Excellence awarded by OPHA in 2017—was given in recognition of Dr. Walker’s contributions and leadership in the field of Indigenous health.

Dr. Walker is an epidemiologist with Indigenous (Haudenosaunee) roots. She holds a Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Health at Laurentian University, where she is a member of the core faculty of the School of Rural and Northern Health. Her research primarily focuses on the use of Indigenous health services data to support and improve health care and policy planning. Specifically, much of her research deals with aging and chronic illness in Indigenous populations. Dr. Walker’s work supports community-driven initiatives, using an Indigenous perspective to understand how historical, social, political, cultural, and economic circumstances affect challenges to health and health care. This means looking at health from a holistic perspective—the sum of a person’s life history and their environment—in order to trace risk exposures and health outcomes.

A faculty investigator at Laurentian University’s Centre for Rural and Northern Health Research (CRaNHR), Dr. Walker is also a core scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES), where she leads the ICES Indigenous portfolio of work. Dr. Walker is the principal investigator on two Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)-funded studies related to aging in First Nations’ populations, and a co-PI on an Ontario SPOR Support Unit (OSSU)-funded study looking to lessen the burden of diabetes on First Nations groups in Ontario.

Currently, Dr. Walker is working to establish partnership and governing agreements to allow Indigenous groups greater ownership of their health data. This will allow for easier identification of Indigenous data, and enable the communities to drive research and decision making using their data. Through these agreements, researchers are required to collaborate with community representatives through the entire research process, from study planning to the reporting of study results.