Faculty Research

The Institute for Health and Social Policy was created to conduct and support world-class research on how social conditions impact population health and welfare, and to lead programs designed to translate research findings into policies and programs on national and global scales. The Institute is committed to building collaborations with policymakers and to developing model programs in order to address population needs. Below are some of the titles of the current research projects being conducted by the Faculty of IHSP. Click to expand each title to read more about these projects.

Development epidemiology for public health

The PROSPERED project evaluates the impact of social policies and programs on the health-related outcomes of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Principal Investigator: Arijit Nandi

Website (includes complete list of co-investigators)

Funding: Canadian Institutes of Health Research

PROSPERED is the continuation of the MACHEquity research project, which operated from 2011-2016 and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). MACHEquity used quasi-experimental methods for impact evaluation to investigate how social policies aimed at reducing poverty, income and gender inequality in high- and low-income countries affect:

Major causes of morbidity and mortality in children
Morbidity and mortality in women under 50
HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and other major diseases.

MACHEquity researchers built databases summarizing national laws and policies across most countries worldwide for the following issues: maternity leave, breastfeeding breaks at work, minimum age for marriage, minimum wage, unemployment insurance benefits, family cash benefits, and child labour.

By the expiry of its five-year CIHR research grant, MACHEquity researchers and trainees had published 19 peer-reviewed articles, delivered 26 conference presentations, and submitted four graduate theses based on the project’s work. The MACHEquity training program supported the training of 10 research fellows, ranging from the master’s to post-doctoral level.

The PROSPERED project expands on the training and research program of MACHEquity by taking a more holistic view that encompasses different public policies and by prioritizing the health-related targets set forth by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

  Measuring Global Health

Principal Investigator: Kristin Voigt

Co-investigators: Sam Harper, Nicholas King, Meredith Young

Funding: CIHR

Addressing problems of global health requires the appropriate allocation of highly scarce resources. Decisions about how available funds should be spent must be sensitive to a variety of pressing health needs while also meeting considerations of fairness and legitimacy. Global health measures are an important instrument in such decisions since they can provide an assessment of the state of global health and allow us to quantify the health impact of different interventions and policy approaches. However, one of the most prominent measures of population health – the disability-adjusted life-year (DALY) developed as part of the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study – has been hugely controversial. Partly in response to the objections leveled against it, the measure has recently undergone its first major methodological revision since its inception in the 1990s. This project seeks to evaluate, from an inter-disciplinary perspective, the suitability of the revised methodology on which the GBD health measure is based for its intended and actual use in policy decisions.

Early publications from the Project

Kristin Voigt. ‘Measuring global health’. In Patti Tamara Lenard and Christine Straehle (eds.), Global Justice and Health Inequalities. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012, pp. 139-156.

  Understanding local determinants of subjective well-being

Principal Investigator: Christopher Barrington-Leigh

Funding: FQRSC, SSHRC, other

Through several related research efforts in the "economics of happiness" we are investigating the variation in life satisfaction across individuals, communities, and countries. This work makes use of existing international and Canadian surveys, as well as our own evolving survey instrument. There are opportunities for economists (and allied disciplines) at all levels from undergraduate to post-doctoral. One strand of this work relates in particular to the remarkable changes in subjective well-being of Quebeckers over the last quarter century.

Early publications from the Project

"The Québec convergence and Canadian life satisfaction 1985--2008," Canadian Public Policy / Analyse de Politiques, March 2013.


  Inequality and Youth Violence

Principal Investigator: Frank Elgar

Funding: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

New research on school bullying and physical fighting among children and adolescents indicates that income inequality begins to contribute to violent behaviour early in the lifespan. The developmental pathways that underlie this relationship are unclear. In this project, we are devloping a developmental model and research tools for studying the contributions of income inequality to youth violence. It involves the analyses of data from several international sources, including the WHO Health Behaviours in School-aged Children study.

Early publications from the Project

Elgar FJ, Pickett KE, Pickett W, Craig W, Molcho M, Hurrelmann K, Lenzi M. School bullying, homicide and income inequality: a cross-national pooled time series analysis. Int J Public Health, in press.

Elgar FJ, Aitken N. Income inequality, trust and homicide in 33 countries. Eur J Public Health. 2011 Apr;21(2):241-6.

Elgar FJ, Craig W, Boyce W, Morgan A, Vella-Zarb R. Income inequality and school bullying: multilevel study of adolescents in 37 countries. J Adolesc Health. 2009 Oct;45(4):351-9.

frank.elgar [at] mcgill.ca (Email)
Phone: 514-398-1739
Office: Charles Meredith House, Room 302

  Transnational Migration of Physicians in the Twentieth Century

Principal Investigator:  David Wright

This research project examines the transnational history of physician migration in the second half of the twentieth century. It will analyze the complex patterns of migration of physicians between national jurisdictions, which were neither unidirectional, nor can be characterized as a 'medicial carousel'. Rather, there emerged patterns of migration that were structured by cultural ties of the Commonwealth (and for French-speaking physicians, La Francophonie), the tradition of postgraduate medical training in Britain, and the modernization of immigration laws in receiving countries.

This project lies at the intersection of history of medicine, history of health policy, and immigration history with the following three objectives:

1. To examine the extent and nature of the immigration of International Medical Graduates (IMGs) to Canada in the post WWII era
2. To analyze the impact of the migration of physicians on source countries and their public health infrastructures
3. To explore the role of foreign-trained doctors in the evolution of public policy.

Early Publications from the Project

Wright, D., Clarke, J., “Too Many Doctors: Closing the Door to IMGs in Canada, c. 1976-1991”, Canadian Bulletin for Medical History, in production (March, 2013).

Wright, D., Mullally, S., Cordukes, C., “ ‘Worse than Being Married’: The Exodus of British Doctors from the National Health Service to Canada, c. 1955-1975”, Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, (2010), doi: 10.1093/jhmas/jrq013.

D Wright, N Flis and M Gupta, The 'Brain Drain' of Physicians: Historical antecedents to an ethical debate, c. 1960-79, Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine, 3:24 (10 Nov 2008) http://www.peh-med.com/content/3/1/24

Mullally, S., Wright, D., “La Grande Séduction?: The Immigration of Foreign-Trained Physicians to Canada, c.1954-76’, Journal of Canadian Studies, vol 31 (2007), 1-22.

david.j.wright [at] mcgill.ca (Email)
Phone: 514-398-1292
Office: Charles Meredith House, Room 100

Improving air quality, health and environment: household energy interventions

Principal Investigator: Jill Baumgartner

Co-investigators: James J. Schauer, Xudong Yang, Christine Wiedinmyer, Majid Ezzati, Stella Daskalopoulo

Billions of people cook and heat their homes with highly polluting solid fuel stoves that negatively impact human health and the environment. Our group is developing innovative measurements and methods to quantify the benefits of a novel energy intervention package on air quality, climate change mitigation and cardiovascular health. In over 200 rural homes in the eastern Tibetan Plateau, we are measuring the reduction in air pollution emissions and exposures as well as the cardiovascular benefits of replacing traditional fuels and stoves with low-emission gasifier technologies and processed biomass fuel. We are also applying these emissions measurements to regional climate models to predict the climate mitigation benefits of a larger intervention program. This project addresses a major environmental risk -- household air pollution from solid fuel use -- which is the 4th leading contributor to the global burden of disease. Our findings will be disseminated to policy makers and other relevant environmental and public health groups in China and globally.


  Montreal Health Equity Research Consortium

Principal Investigators: Daniel Weinstock and Nicholas B. King

Funding: Canadian Institutes of Health Research Programmatic Grant in Health and Health Equity

 The Montreal Health Equity Research Consortium (MHERC) consists of multiple projects directed by 7 faculty and 4 postdoctoral fellows at McGill University and the Université de Montréal. It has two main objectives:

Ethical Frameworks

What are the conceptual and ethical dilemmas underlying research in the social determinants of health? Drawing on methods from philosophy, epidemiology, and behavioral psychology, MHERC’s researchers identify and investigate novel ethical frameworks to guide public policy and public health interventions that address health equity.

Impacts of Policy on Health Equity

How do particular policies, measurement strategies, framing effects, prioritization schemes, and public health interventions impact health and health equity? MHERC’s researchers explore the ethical implications of health inequalities research, health policies, and public health interventions. Our goal is to produce policy-relevant academic work, as well as policy briefs aimed at population health professionals and policymakers.

We are always on the lookout for and happy to hear from potential collaborators and students. Feel free to contact us any time!

Selected publications

Hunt, M, L. Schwartz, and C. Sinding. (2013). Tragic Choices in humanitarian healthcare practice. Journal of Clinical Ethics 23(4):338-344.

De Wispelaere, J.(2013). The Struggle for Strategy: On the Politics of Universal Basic Income. Politics (forthcoming).

De Wispelaere, J and D. Casassas. (2013). A Life of One’s Own: Republican Freedom and Disability. Disability and Society (forthcoming).

Bisaillon, L. (2013). Contradictions and dilemmas within the practice of immigration medicine. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 104(1): e45-e51.

Bisaillon, L. & Rankin, J. (2013). Navigating the politics of fieldwork using institutional ethnography: Strategies for practice. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung/Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 14(1), Art.14.

Harper, Sam, & King, Nicholas B. (2013). Commentary: Best Practice for What? Milbank Quarterly, 91(1), 205-209

De Wispelaere, J and D. Weinstock. (2012). Licensing Parents to Protect Our Children. Ethics and Social Welfare 6(2).

Eckenwiler L.,C. Straehle, and R. Chung. (2012) Global Solidarity, Migration, and Global Health Equity.Bioethics, 26 (7): 382-390. 

Bisaillon, L. (2012). An analytic glossary for social inquiry using institutional and political activist ethnography. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 11(5).

Rosenthal, A. (2012) Weaving Networks of Responsibility: Community Work and Child Care in Development Programs in Rural Malawi. Medical Anthropology, 31: 420–437.

Hunt, MR, Andreson J, Boulanger R.(2012). Ethical implications of disaster research diversity. American Journal of Disaster Medicine. 7(3);211-21.

Hunt MR, Schwartz L, Elit L. (2012). Ethics support and training for health professionals in international aid work. Public Health Ethics. 5(1); 91-9

Schwartz L, Hunt MR, Sinding S, Elit L, Redwood-Campbell L, Adelson N, DeLaat S. (2012) Models for humanitarian health care ethics. Public Health Ethics. 5(1); 81-90.

Harper S, Rushani D, Kaufman JS. (2012). Trends in the Black-White Life Expectancy Gap, 2003-2008. JAMA. 307: 2257-2259.

King, Nicholas B., Sam Harper, Meredith Young (2012). Use of relative and absolute effect measures in reporting health inequalities: structured review. BMJ 345: e5774.

King, N. B., S. Harper, et al. (2012). Who cares about health inequalities? Cross-country evidence from the World Health Survey. Health Policy and Planning.