Message from the Chair

In the past 20 years, my research program has focused on understanding the strengths and capacities of women and families who are in transition or living in marginalized conditions. I have highlighted how personal, social, economic and structural factors facilitate or undermine health using a health equity lens. In the past 10 years, my research has paid particular attention to the lives of women who have experienced violence from a spouse or intimate partner, particularly during the transition when women attempt to separate from these partners. This work has included studies of the long-term health, social and economic impacts of intimate partner violence (IPV) and, more recently, the design and testing of health care interventions to improve women’s health and quality of life. 1 in 4 Canadian women experience violence from a partner in their lifetimes and these women have poorer mental and physical health than women in the general population. IPV also erodes the personal, economic and social resources that women need to rebuild their lives and heal from the abuse. While women who have experienced IPV access a wide range of heath, legal and social services to help them deal with the violence and its consequences, they often face barriers in obtaining help that fits with their needs. In the health care system, approaches for addressing IPV and its consequences have yet to be widely integrated into care. The development and testing of trauma-informed models of health care for women who have experienced violence is a priority.      

1 in 5 Canadian women live in a rural setting, yet these women have so often been overlooked in health research! An inclusive, evidence-based women’s health strategy must address both urban and rural women’s issues and needs in a way that accounts for more than “geography”. Violence, in particular, has not been well studied among rural women, but we know that some features of rural life, such as physical and social isolation, higher rates of poverty, transportation problems, concerns about lack of privacy, traditional gender role expectations, and blaming or otherwise unhelpful responses from police and health care providers, work against women’s efforts to break free of an abusive partner and make changes to limit the health and social impacts of abuse. Rural women have fewer choices when it comes to health care and are more likely be without access to primary health care services, including mental health care. Like urban women, rural women come from all walks of life, with the most socially marginalized women experiencing the greatest health risks. Reducing health inequities and their root causes, among rural women is as important as addressing inequities between urban and rural women. 

Vision of the Echo Chair in Rural Women’s Health Research

To establish Western as a Center of Excellence in Rural Women’s Health Research, with a particular focus on understanding health inequities of rural women who have experienced IPV (Intimate Partner Violence) and working to reduce such inequities through meaningful practice and policy change.

3 Spheres of Activity

Echo Spheres

Knowledge Creation-Leading cutting edge research focused on understanding health inequities and testing context-sensitive, trauma-informed health interventions/models of care to improve the health and quality of life of rural women who have experienced IPV and/or structural violence. 

Knowledge Exchange-Cultivating partnerships to enhance research relevance and maximize impact on services and policies

Capacity Development -Supporting the development of a cadre of highly skilled, creative researchers and trainees at Western who will contribute to understanding and addressing health inequities among diverse women living in rural settings  

Knowledge Creation

Leading cutting edge research in two primary areas:

  1. Understanding mechanisms which lead to health inequities among diverse women, including risk and protective factors at individual, family, and system/structural levels 
  2. Testing context-sensitive, trauma-informed, health interventions/models of care for rural women to improve the health and quality of life of women who have experienced IPV and/or structural violence.


  • Conducting targeted secondary analyses of existing data sets (e.g. CCHS, GSS);
  • Building in analysis to explore the needs and issues of women living in rural settings into current studies where possible;• Seeking funding for new studies which incorporate a specific focus on rural women’s health;
  • Developing national research teams which include members with varied expertise from academic, service and/or policy sectors to ensure the relevant of interventions to local context;   
  • Seeking international collaborations to extend the reach of intervention research;
  • Supporting the development of high quality research in rural women’s health by participating in peer review and consultation activities.

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Knowledge Exchange

Cultivating partnerships with key stakeholders to ensure that the research conducted is relevant in the “real world”, and to provide a vehicle for sharing findings, promoting understanding and informing decision-making.


  • Partnering with policy makers and stakeholders (i.e. service providers, women, media) to identify salient research questions and to conduct studies which are policy relevant;
  • Leveraging existing networks to identify partners for specific projects (e.g. PreVAIL, Women’s Health Network);
  • Seeking opportunities to extend relationships with varied stakeholders (i.e. women, health care providers, decision-makers, media); 
  • Ensuring that research findings are accessible and relevant to women/general public, professionals, policy makers and organizations; 
  • Using technology (e.g. website, webinars), media and other strategies to showcase key research findings and initiatives;
  • Promoting broad awareness of rural women’s health research through sponsored events, networking, conference and community presentations, and participation in expert panels, networks and professional groups. 

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Capacity Development

Supporting the development of a cadre of highly skilled, creative researchers and trainees at Western who will contribute to understanding and addressing health inequities among diverse women living in rural settings   


  • Consulting  with Western researchers working in areas of  women’s health, health inequities, and/or Aboriginal studies to identify opportunities for linking and extending current research; 
  • Providing formal and informal opportunities for researchers and trainees to share knowledge and expertise related to rural women’s Health; 
  • Mentoring and support graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in rural women’s health research;
  • Encouraging and support trainees to broaden their expertise by seeking learning experiences beyond core academic requirements (e.g. participating in workshops, think tanks, policy meetings, community events, conferences; volunteering in professional and/or community organizations)
  • Inviting new investigators to develop their expertise and track records by participating on research teams 

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Also from this web page:

Echo Chairholder

Marilyn Ford-Gilboe
Arthur Labatt Family School of Nursing

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