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  • Dr. Sara FL Kirk, PhD


Professor of Health Promotion, School of Health and Human Performance, Dalhousie University; Scientific Director, Health Populations Institute, Dalhousie University; Member, CIHR Institute Advisory Board, Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth Health (IHDCYH). 


Adjunct Professor, Mount Saint Vincent University

Research Interests:

Health promotion, population health, applied health services and policy research, social-ecological approaches to health, population health intervention research, cancer prevention, obesity management and prevention.

Recent evidence suggests that as many as 4 in 10 cancer cases can be prevented, with unhealthy eating, physical inactivity and excess adiposity being key risk factors for cancer and other chronic diseases. With unhealthy behaviours often the default, my program of research explores ways to create supportive environments for chronic disease prevention, through policy and systems change. This means collaborating with partners across different sectors to make healthy behaviours easier to adopt.

What brought you to your current institution?
I came to Dalhousie in 2007 to take up a tier 2 Canada Research Chair. The focus of my research since then has been on creating supportive environments for chronic disease prevention. I use a socio-ecological approach which takes into account the myriad factors that help or hinder our ability to adopt health behaviours like being active and eating healthily. These are factors like income, community design or societal norms.

Hometown: Lincoln, UK

Why are you interested in your area of research?
We often take our health for granted until something happens to affect it. Cancer has impacted my family, and I carry a gene that also increases my risk of developing a cluster of cancers. Knowing that 4 in 10 cancer cases could be prevented through health promotion, I want to help create the conditions to support health for all and help people to overcome the complex constellation of factors that undermine health.

Learn more about my research:

Involvement with BHCRI to date:

I am a BHCRI Senior Scientist, currently serving on the BHCRI Management Advisory Committee (from 2018) and Communications Committee, and previously serving on the BHCRI Development Board (2010-2011).


(902) 494 8440



Applied Research Collaborations for Health, School of Health and Human Performance, 1318 Robie Street, Dalhousie University, Halifax


McIsaac JL, Spencer B, Penney T, Stewart M, Brushett S, Kirk SFL (2019). Understanding system-level intervention points to support school food and nutrition policy implementation in Nova Scotia, Canada. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(5), 712. doi:

Stone M, Houser N, Cawley J, Kolen A, Rainham D, Rehman L, Turner J, Kirk S (2019). Accelerometry-measured physical activity and sedentary behaviour of preschoolers in Nova Scotia, Canada. Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism. doi:

Kontak JCH, Kirk SFL, Robinson L, Ohinmaa A, Veugelers P (2019). The relationship between bullying behaviours in childhood and physician-diagnosed internalizing disorders. CJPH, Online First, 1-9. doi:

McIsaac JLD, Ata N, Kirk SFL (2019). Describing Food Availability in Schools Using Different Healthy Eating Guidelines: Moving Forward with Simpler Nutrition Recommendations. Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research; 80(1); 22-29.

McIsaac JLD, Jarvis S, Olstad DL, Naylor PJ, Rehman L, Kirk SFL (2018). Voluntary nutrition guidelines to support healthy eating in recreation and sports settings are ineffective: findings from a prospective study. AIMS Public Health. 

McIsaac JL, Spencer B, Meisner K, Kontak J, Kirk SFL (2018). Factors influencing the implementation of nutrition policies in schools: A scoping review. Health Education and Behavior, 1-27. doi:

Hernandez K, Engler-Stringer R, Kirk SFL, Whittman H, McNicholl S (2018). The case for a Canadian national school food program. Canadian Food Studies Journal, 5(3), 208-229. doi: 10.15353/cfs-rcea.v5i3.260 ISSN: 2292-3071208

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