Today’s member profile comes from Dr. Sara Kirk, PhD, Professor of Health Promotion and Scientific Director of the Healthy Populations Institute, Dalhousie University, Canada. Dr. Kirk is Chair on the Weight Bias & Stigma Committee.
I am a Professor of Health Promotion and Scientific Director of the Healthy Populations Institute, Dalhousie University, Canada. My research explores the creation of supportive environments for chronic disease prevention. Using a ‘socio-ecological’ approach I study how individual behaviour is influenced by broader factors like income, education, and societal norms.
My interest in obesity came from my experiences working as a health care professional in the UK, with a focus on mental health and eating disorders. Through this work, I saw how people living with obesity experienced sub-optimal care within health care settings. After moving to Canada in 2007 to take up a Canada Research Chair at Dalhousie University, I led one of the first multilevel studies of obesity management, which identified some of the ways that weight bias and stigma influence health and health-care provider practice. The rich narratives from participants were then incorporated into a drama depicting the spoken and unspoken tensions in the relationship between a health professional and an individual living with obesity. This innovative form of knowledge translation subsequently led to the development of an interprofessional health education course that incorporates drama to convey the complexities of obesity stigma. The goal of this course is to reduce weight bias and stigma among future health professions. The course, now online, is offered through the Dalhousie Interprofessional Education (IPE) program.
More recently I was lead author for the first chapter on weight bias reduction in the revised Canadian Clinical Practice Guidelines for Obesity Management, released by Obesity Canada in August 2020. This is a milestone for Obesity Canada and sets the standard for other obesity management guidance in other countries.
I have been a member of Obesity Canada since 2007. I am a founding member of the Obesity Canada EveryBODY Matters Collaborative, a group of academics and practitioners who raise awareness of the harms caused by weight bias and stigma. I am also chair of the Weight Bias and Stigma committee and a member of the Science Committee for Obesity Canada.