After a very brief stint as a student of political science many years ago, Verena switched careers, went to medical school, and worked as a psychiatrist in Switzerland for several years. Her passion for policy and politics never ceased, however, and Verena became increasingly frustrated with the limited impact she had as a clinician on the systemic issues that made her patients sick. She therefore made the decision to leave her clinical career path and came to Canada to complete an MSc in Population and Public Health at UBC. There, she became interested in how the framing of environmental policy as a human health issue may open up pathways for academic environmental advocacy. Fast forward another few years and Verena, now a PhD student at IRES, explores ways in which academics conduct knowledge-to-action activities in the environmental policy realm. Drawing on a wide range of literatures from policy theory over moral psychology to social movement scholarship, Verena asks the question how we can more effectively use the extant evidence on the health impact of environmental issues to drive policy change. Spoiler alert: simple dissemination of knowledge – no matter how well communicated – is not enough; the world of policy making is so much more complicated! Conversely, strategies such as ‘activism’ and ‘lobbying’ are evidence-based ways to drive policy change and yet, they are considered undesirable by most academics. What can we thus learn from academics who have pushed the boundaries of what is perceived as ‘worthy’ scholarship and have successfully shaped environmental policy by embracing their role as activists? And: What is necessary for academia to embrace these strategies in order to create change? On a quest to finding the answers to these questions and putting them into action, Verena collaborates with the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions and the Planetary Health Alliance to transform academics into effective environmental advocates. Verena is excited and grateful to have the support of two amazing supervisors: David Boyd (IRES) and Paul Kershaw (School of Population and Public Health).

Featured Publications

Rossa-Roccor, V., Giang, A., & Kershaw, P. (2021). Framing climate change as a human health issue: Enough to tip the scale in climate policy? The Lancet Planetary Health, 5(8), e553-e559.

Gadermann, A.M., Russell, L.B., Palepu, A., Thomson, K.C., Norena, M., Rossa-Roccor, V., Hwang, S.W., Aubrey, T., Karim, M.E., Farrell, S., Hubley, A. (2021). Understanding subjective quality of life in homeless and vulnerably housed individuals: The role of housing, health, substance use, and social support. SSM – Mental Health 1, 100021.

Rossa-Roccor, V., Richardson, C. G., Murphy, R. A., & Gadermann, A. M. (2021). The association between diet and mental health and wellbeing in young adults within a biopsychosocial framework. PLOS One16(6), e0252358.

Rossa-Roccor, V., & Karim, M. E. (2021). Are US adults with low-exposure to methylmercury at increased risk for depression? A study based on 2011–2016 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES). International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health94(3), 419-431.

Rossa-Roccor, V., Schmid, P., & Steinert, T. (2020). Victimization of people with severe mental illness outside and within the mental health care system: results on prevalence and risk factors from a multicenter study. Frontiers in Psychiatry11, 932.

Rossa-Roccor, V., Acheson, E. S., Andrade-Rivas, F., Coombe, M., Ogura, S., Super, L., & Hong, A. (2020). Scoping review and bibliometric analysis of the term “planetary health” in the peer-reviewed literature. Frontiers in Public Health8, 343.

Clair, V., Rossa-Roccor, V., Mokaya, A. G., Mutiso, V., Musau, A., Tele, A., ... & Frank, E. (2019). Peer-and mentor-enhanced web-based training on substance use disorders: a promising approach in low-resource settings. Psychiatric Services70(11), 1068-1071.

Stone, S. B., Myers, S. S., & Golden, C. D., & The Planetary Health Education Brainstorm Group.(2018). Cross-cutting principles for planetary health education. The Lancet Planetary Health2(5), e192-e193.

Rossa-Roccor, V., Malatskey, L., & Frank, E. (2017). NextGenU. org’s free, globally available online training in lifestyle medicine. American journal of lifestyle medicine11(2), 132-133.