New Director of Health Studies brings global perspective to Western
by Allan Lewis
“I am a sociologist and social policist by background,” explains Rachel Forrester Jones, the new Director of the School of Health Studies in the Faculty of Health Sciences.
Professor Forrester-Jones joins Western from the University of Bath (UK), where she was a professor of social policy, Head of its Department of Social and Policy Sciences, and Director of its Centre for the Analysis of Social Policy. Prior to Bath, Forrester-Jones held the Chair in Social Inclusion at the University of Kent (UK), and was the Director of its Tizard Centre of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
With research that explores social determinants of health, particularly the life cycle from pre-birth through to death of people with disabilities, Forrester-Jones’ work aligns directly with one of the signature research areas at the Faculty of Health Sciences. She believes in looking at healthcare through the eyes of those with disabilities and uses her training as a barrister to contribute to legal issues related to health in diverse communities.
Her work recognizes that for vulnerable adults, the challenges of engaging in meaningful activities that provide a healthy lifestyle are compounded by their living situations. She has spent time in Brazil working with colleagues on the social inclusion of people with disabilities from Indigenous and minority populations.
These experiences have led to a view of the duty of academics in the health sciences as helping to put healthcare within reach for the most disadvantaged in a population.
“Get it right for the most disabled people and their caregivers, and you can get it right for everyone,” she says. “The School of Health Studies has a fabulous reputation and a crucial role locally, nationally and internationally, and it is a great privilege to direct its work.”
What excites Forrester-Jones most about beginning her role at Western is the opportunity to be part of team that is focused on the greater good and the bold ideas for internationalization and the global impact of the School of Health Studies that she hopes to amplify.
“I look forward to working with colleagues who are committed to the cause of improving health outcomes for everyone,” she says. “I’m also excited about creating more international partnerships and working with colleagues from Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Asia.”
In addition, Forrester-Jones, whose appointment at Western began on September 1, expects to explore emerging impacts to human health, including climate change and the immediate health impacts of pandemics.