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Stephanie Coen

Assistant Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences

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Biography

I am a critical health geographer with an overarching concern for how everyday social and material contexts matter for health and health equity. I am particularly interested in how taken-for-granted -- and often unquestioned -- features of our day-to-day environments become implicated in the production of health outcomes, behaviours, and inequities. My research in health geography fits largely into two streams: (1) critical geographies of physical activity, and (2) socio-environmental influences on young people's health.

Critical geographies of physical activity: A major strand of my work in this area has been to theorize and empirically investigate critical geographies of physical activity, with a focus on the role of place (the gym) in the gendering of physical activity (Coen et al., 2018, 2020a, 2020b). Drawing inspiration from critical geographies of obesity, in this approach I recognize human agency, contend with the experiences of being in and moving through physical activity environments, and examine the socio-spatial processes and factors that work to support or exclude people in being active and engaging with physical activity spaces. I decouple physical activity from contested anti-obesity-oriented research agendas, which have limited physical activity to the prescriptive role of 'calories out,' making physical activity a means to an end rather than a topic meritorious of geographical study in its own right. My objective is in this work is to identify ways to make physical activity environments more inclusive and thereby promote access to healthy opportunities for diverse populations.

Socio-environmental influences on young people's health: Building on my postdoctoral work where I collaborated with a group of teens for almost a year to develop and launch a Youth Advisory Council at Western University's Human Environments Analysis Laboratory (see Arunkumar et al., 2019), I am co-Principal Investigator on a new $100,000CAD grant (funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research) exploring the contexts of teen vaping, entitled "Teens talk vaping: A qualitative integrated knowledge translation study to co-produce vaping research and educational tools with teens." With Prof. Jason Gilliland, I am leading a multidisciplinary team of co-investigators and community partners in London, Ontario (including Middlesex-London Health Unit, Southwestern Public Health, London Health Sciences Centre, and the London District Catholic School Board) to generate much-needed evidence on teenage vaping to ensure that research and educational resources resonate with them. This project takes a fully integrated knowledge translation approach in that the project itself is a response to the urgent priority the Youth Advisory Council identified in relation to vaping and 7 teens are part of the project team as co-researchers. See media release here.

Other areas of interest: I also have an interest in qualitative and creative methods as a substantive research area, particularly in relation to questions of rigour and empirically evaluating potentially innovative techniques. Cross-cutting my various research interests is my commitment to making research more useful and applicable in the real-world so that it can be used as an instrument for positive change. Part of this work involves my collaboration on multidisciplinary initiatives, including the Sex/Gender Methods Group, to understand how sex and gender shape the very production of health research knowledge and to develop tools to better integrate sex and gender considerations in health research practice.

I completed my BA Honours (2004) and MA (2006) in geography at McGill University (Canada) with Prof Nancy Ross & Prof Sarah Turner. I then gained experience as a Research Manager and a Knowledge Translation Manager in multidisciplinary health research environments before pursing my PhD (2017) in geography at Queen's University (Canada) with Prof Mark Rosenberg & Dr Joyce Davidson. I undertook postdoctoral training at the Human Environments Analysis Laboratory (HEAL) in the Department of Geography at Western University (Canada) with Prof Jason Gilliland. My PhD and Postdoctoral Fellowship were supported by awards from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

Click here for my ORCID page.

My pronouns are she/her/hers.

Teaching Summary

I contribute to the following undergraduate modules:

  • Exploring Human Geography (Year 1)
  • Tutorials (Year 1)
  • Careers Skills in Human Geography (Year 1, module convenor)
  • Research Tutorial (Year 2)
  • Dissertation Preparation (Year 2)
  • Dissertation (Year 3)
  • Health Geographies (Year 3, co-convenor)

Research Summary

Co-Principal Investigator. (2020-2021). Teens talk vaping: A qualitative integrated knowledge translation study to co-produce vaping research and educational tools with teens. Canadian Institutes… read more

Recent Publications

Media coverage

  1. "A message to every single man who feels the need to give women 'advice' at the gym" (27 April 2019). Research cited in article by Poorna Bell in Stylist: https://www.stylist.co.uk/long-reads/strength-training-women-unwanted-advice-men-gym-mansplaining/263573

  2. "A Gender Gap at the Gym Is Keeping Women From Working Out" (5 March 2019). Interviewed in article by Garnet Henderson in Glamour magazine: https://www.glamour.com/story/a-gender-gap-at-the-gym-is-keeping-women-from-working-out

  3. "New study looks at gender and the gym" (6 Dec. 2017). Interview with 94.9fm Radio Western: http://www.radiowestern.ca/program/news/news/2017-12-06/new-study-looks-gender-and-gym

  4. "Study explores how gender defines the gym" (30 Nov. 2017). Interviewed in article by Angie Wiseman in Western News: http://news.westernu.ca/2017/11/study-explores-gender-defines-gym/

  5. "Gender and the gym" (21 Nov. 2017). Interviewed in article by Rob Rombouts for Western Social Science: http://ssc.uwo.ca/news/2017/gender_and_the_gym.html

  6. "Western study finds gender affects how we act at the gym" (6 Dec. 2017). Interviewed in article by Martin Allen in The Western Gazette: https://www.westerngazette.ca/news/western-study-finds-gender-affects-how-we-act-at-the/article_0ce318c4-dabf-11e7-8d20-7f5193a82988.html

Blog posts

Coen, S. E. (2019). "How you feel in the gym matters. It's a matter of social justice." Geography Directions (blog of the Royal British Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers publications): https://blog.geographydirections.com/2019/10/15/how-you-feel-in-the-gym-matters-its-a-matter-of-social-justice/

Coen, S. E. (2018). "Tackling inequalities in physical activity." Blog of Women's Strength Coalition: https://www.womensstrengthcoalition.com/tackling-inequalities-in-physical-activity/

Current Research

  1. Co-Principal Investigator. (2020-2021). Teens talk vaping: A qualitative integrated knowledge translation study to co-produce vaping research and educational tools with teens. Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). ($100,000CAN)
  2. Co-Investigator. (2020-2025). Examining the influence of a school travel planning intervention on children's travel behaviour, physical activity, and exposure to pollution around their schools. (PI: J. Gilliland). Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). ($1,005,975CAN)

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