School of Geography

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Stephanie Coen

Associate Professor,



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)

Postgraduate supervision:

I'm open to supervising master's and PhD students across a range of critical health geographies topics using qualitative methodologies (especially participatory approaches and creative/arts-based methods). If you are interested in discussing potential supervision with me, please feel welcome to contact me via email.

Current postgraduate students:

  • Gabrielle Guy, PhD Year 2 (Geography), Thesis title: "Dry leaf don't rot same time it falls": Wellbeing in contemporary Caribbean family food practices. (Lead Supervisor)
  • Harriet Cameron, PhD Year 3 (Computer Science), Thesis title: Curating Audiences: Creating Ethical and Transparent Data Collection Processes in Museums. Funded through Part of the Horizon CDT and supported by the EPSRC [grant number EP/L015463/1] and the Nottingham Contemporary. (Co-Supervisor)

Research Summary

Principal Investigator. (2022-2023). Applying a gendered environmental approach in women's sport: A knowledge exchange workshop. University of Nottingham ESRC Impact Acceleration Account… read more

Recent Publications

Media coverage

  1. 'Why Are Female Athletes At A Higher Risk Of ACL Injuries?' (1 July 2022). Interview with Ira Flatow on Science Friday (syndicated across 400 National Public Radio Stations in the US).

  2. "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:

  3. "A Gender Gap at the Gym Is Keeping Women From Working Out" (5 March 2019). Interviewed in article by Garnet Henderson in Glamour magazine:

  4. "New study looks at gender and the gym" (6 Dec. 2017). Interview with 94.9fm Radio Western:

  5. "Study explores how gender defines the gym" (30 Nov. 2017). Interviewed in article by Angie Wiseman in Western News:

  6. "Gender and the gym" (21 Nov. 2017). Interviewed in article by Rob Rombouts for Western Social Science:

  7. "Western study finds gender affects how we act at the gym" (6 Dec. 2017). Interviewed in article by Martin Allen in The Western Gazette:

Blog posts & podcasts

Bekker, S., Coen, S. E., & Parson, J. (2021). Challenging gendered norms in sport and physical activity: implications for injury prevention. British Journal of Sports Medicine. Part of the BJSM's #KnowledgeTranslation blog series:

"Beyond biology: a gendered approach to injury with Joanne Parsons and Stephanie Coen. Ep #478." 4 June 2021. BMJ Talk Medicine podcast:

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):

Coen, S. E. (2018). "Tackling inequalities in physical activity." Blog of Women's Strength Coalition:

Current Research

  1. Principal Investigator. (2022-2023). Applying a gendered environmental approach in women's sport: A knowledge exchange workshop. University of Nottingham ESRC Impact Acceleration Account ES/T501992/1. (£4,992.26)
  2. Co-Investigator. (2022-2023). Mental health resilience and first aid across schools and departments of geography across UK higher education. (PI: N. Clare). Royal Geographical Society. (£1,980)
  3. Co-Investigator. (2021-2023). Gendered environments in sport settings: a scoping review. (PI: J. Parsons). Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. (CA$6,875)
  4. Co-Principal Investigator. (2021-2022). QuaranTEENing: Understanding the Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Mental Wellbeing and Health-Related, Social, and Environmental Behaviours of Teens. Canadian Institutes of Health Research. (CA$150,000)
  5. 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). (CA$100,000)
  6. 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). (CA$1,005,975)

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