Canadian Cancer Society award allows researcher to study capacity for chronic disease prevention

This award will support Katerina Maximova, whose work is considered to have potential for high impact in chronic disease prevention.


Research has shown that making changes to one’s daily life, such as increasing physical activity, improving diet or quitting smoking, can help prevent chronic disease. In spite of attempts by public health organizations (PHO) to bring about change to the average Canadian’s daily life it appears, that in some cases, these adjustments to modifiable behavioural risk factors are falling short.

Where does the disconnect lie? This is what School of Public Health’s assistant professor Katerina Maximova intends to find out.

Maximova is one of six researchers nationwide who was recently awarded the Canadian Cancer Society’s Capacity Development Awards in Prevention. This award supports researchers whose work has the potential for high impact in cancer prevention and risk reduction.

Maximova is no stranger to chronic disease prevention as it has been her primary focus over the last ten years. In the last four years, she has been involved in a study that looks at PHOs’ capacity for chronic disease prevention. Do PHOs have the skills and resources— capacity—to do what they need to do?

With this award, Maximova will devote more time to studying the capacity of PHOs, in both governmental and non-governmental sectors, to identify gaps that may exist in integrating existing research evidence into action. She aims to discover what the missing link may be regarding policy implementation. Maximova will focus on challenges in implementing promising prevention policies.

Cancer and other chronic diseases are preventable through improvements in lifestyle behaviours. We’ve known this for some time. But we need to support Canadians in changing their behaviours,” Maximova explains.

“This research is important because it goes a step back and looks at the public health organizations that are working to develop and implement these prevention programs and policies. Now, we want to know whether they have the adequate skills and resources. Are they trained? Do they have adequate staffing, resources and funding to develop these programs and policies that promote behaviour changes among Canadians.”

Maximova will be building on the Public Health Organizational Capacity Study (PHORCAST), which collected the first Canada-wide data from formally-mandated and informal public health organizations engaged in front-line implementation of chronic disease programming across Canada. She will take these data a step further to evaluate a link with implementation of prevention policies through legislation.

Maximova’s research is both critical and visionary, as there is little research like it in Canada. Historically, only 5 per cent of health dollars have been directed toward public health. Maximova aims to show that organizations that are adequately skilled and resourced can do their work better; meeting both governmental and public needs and demands. This, in turn, will provide evidence for decision makers to put more resources towards public health and chronic disease prevention.

The Canadian Cancer Society Capacity Development Awards in Prevention will assist in building her program of research over the next five years, although Maximova anticipates focusing on this cutting-edge field of public health systems research for the rest of her career.

Not only will Maximova be looking at the overall national impact of PHOs and their potential for chronic disease prevention, she will also be studying differences between provinces to illuminate those that are leaders in chronic disease prevention.

“At the end of the day,” says Maximova, “I hope to alleviate the burden of disease by supporting Canadians in making healthy behaviour choices.”