Noreen Willows, Professor, PhD

Nutritional Sciences
University of Alberta

Dr. Noreen Willows is Professor, Population and Public Health Nutrition, Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences (ALES), University of Alberta. Dr. Willows has conducted research in immigrant nutrition, global nutrition, impact of household food insecurity on health, and vitamin D nutrition. Her research focus is population health intervention research to enhance food access in First Nations communities in Canada through school-based, food security and food sovereignty initiatives. Dr. Willows champions a decolonizing community-based participatory approach to research in which community members and academic co-researchers form community-university partnership to develop culturally appropriate solutions to health issues identified by community members. Along with Rosanne Blanchet, Dr. Willows was a guest editor for a special virtual volume in Applied Physiology Nutrition and Metabolism (APNM) on Indigenous Health and Wellness that focused on strength-based decolonizing research as a way to address Indigenous health inequities. She teaches a large second year course called the Cultural Ecology of Food and Health that discusses the religious, cultural, social, and geopolitical determinants of food choice in Canada and elsewhere. She also teaches a large third year course called Introduction to Population and Public Health Nutrition. In 2013 and 2021 she was awarded with the ALES Teaching Hall of Fame for teaching excellence.

Enhancing health equity and justice in Indigenous and Diverse Populations: strength-based health promoting initiatives

Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) experience health inequities because of unfavourable social determinants of health (SDoH). For Indigenous peoples, these SDoH include poverty, low educational attainment, inadequate housing conditions, and food insecurity as well as colonial policies and practices, racism and stigmatization, loss of language, disconnection from cultural practices, lack of access to traditional territories, loss of food sovereignty, and exposure to trauma and violence. Strength-based interventions, programs and policies are required to improve Indigenous health and wellness through enhanced nutrition, physical activity, active living, and land-based activities (traditional Indigenous lifestyles that encourage active living and provide nutritious food). Applied Physiology Nutrition and Metabolism’s Editors-in-Chief, Wendy Ward and Phil Chilibeck, along with former Editor-in-Chief Terry Graham, supported a special virtual volume in the Journal on Indigenous Health and Wellness that focused on strength-based decolonizing research which acknowledged the SDoH as a way to address Indigenous health inequities. In contrast to deficit-based research which focuses on what is wrong with a community, strength-based approaches focus on identifying and supporting the strengths, as well as the protective factors, within a community that help people in their journeys toward well-being. Applied Physiology Nutrition and Metabolism has made all papers in the collection free-access and available to the public. This symposium will highlight 2 examples of strength-based research from the special virtual volume. Following the presentations there will be a panel discussion where the speakers will discuss how strength-based research could advance health equity and justice for diverse populations.