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Canadian Public Health Association

March 6, 2018 5:00pm EST

A Day in the Life of an R.D. Defries Award Recipient


  • Dr. Trevor Hancock, School of Public Health and Social Policy at the University of Victoria

Moderator: Ian Culbert

Dr. Trevor Hancock never set out to become a public health physician. He entered a very specialty-oriented London teaching hospital in 1967 (“yes, I am that old!” he says) fresh from a year as a volunteer teacher in a small community in Sarawak, on the island of Borneo, thinking he would go back to work there. Trevor graduated six years later wanting to be a family physician and with an active engagement in ecological politics. Then almost immediately he moved to Canada, where he did family practice in rural New Brunswick and then in a community health centre in Toronto. But he became tired of dealing with recurring problems that were rooted in social, economic, and environmental factors; patching them up and sending them back into battle rather than stopping the war, as he put it. So he went into public health. And the rest – public health reform, healthy public policy, healthy cities, the Green Party, CAPE, green health care, core public health functions, the ecological determinants of health, governance for health and so on – is, as they say, history. Which Trevor will share on this webinar, along with thoughts about the future of public health.  

This session is part of the Exploring Careers in Public Health Webinar Series.


Dr. Trevor Hancock is a public health physician and health promotion consultant and is currently a Professor and Senior Scholar at the School of Public Health and Social Policy at the University of Victoria. His main areas of interest are population health promotion, healthy cities and communities, public health, healthy public policy, environment and health, healthy and 'green' hospitals, health policy and planning, and health futurism. He is one of the founders of the (now global) Healthy Cities and Communities movement, originated the term 'healthy public policy', and has been described as “one of the ten best health futurists in the world”. 

For more than 30 years he has worked as a consultant for local communities, municipal, provincial and national governments, health care organizations, NGOs and the World Health Organization. Internationally, he was a member of the Knowledge Network on Urban Settings (part of the WHO Commission on the Social Determinants of Health), a member of the Advisory Board for the Urban HEART project of the WHO Kobe Centre for Health and Development, and a member of the Global Research Network on Urban Health Equity. In the past he was the first leader of the Green Party for both Canada and Ontario in the 1980s, and later co-founded both the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and the Canadian Coalition for Green Health Care.  

He was made an Honourary Life Member of the Canadian Public Health Association in 1990 and an Honourary Fellow in the UK’s Faculty of Public Health in 2015. In 2017 he was awarded the Defries Medal, the CPHA’s highest award, presented for outstanding contributions in the broad field of public health, as well as a Lifetime Contribution Award from Health Promotion Canada.

From 2012 – 2015 he led a CPHA workgroup that has resulted in a comprehensive Discussion Paper on the ecological determinants health (May 2015) and was an external reviewer for the Rockefeller Foundation/ Lancet Commission on Planetary Health. He is now leading a series of local Conversations on the concept of Victoria as a One Planet Region and is endeavouring to have the University of Victoria explore its role in addressing the issue of the Anthropocene. 

He was appointed as a Senior Editor to the Editorial Board of the Canadian Journal of Public Health in 2014 and in 2015 was invited to join the Editorial Board for a new Journal, Cities and Health. Since December 2014 he has written a regular weekly column on population and public health for the Times Colonist, the daily newspaper in Victoria.