Aug. 7, 2020

UCalgary researcher’s innovative program benefits Canadians with disabilities and their families

Jennifer Zwicker among 11 UCalgary scholars awarded Canada Research Chairs

For Canadian children and youth with disabilities, and their families, vital health-care services are too often experienced as fragmented and hard to access.

Jennifer Zwicker aims to close this gap. Dr. Zwicker, PhD, an emerging leader in child disability policy at the University of Calgary, was awarded a Canada Research Chair (CRC) Tier 2 in Disability Policy for Children and Youth at the end of July.

Zwicker’s research focuses on gaps in access to and integration of services for families and care communities of children and youth with disability. Her innovative research program will provide real-world impacts on Canadians with disabilities and their families, providing the data and background for better policy and services.

Interdisciplinary expertise

Dr. Zwicker — as the director of the Health Policy Program at The School of Public Policy, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology, and deputy chief scientific officer for Kids Brain Health Network — has interdisciplinary expertise that cuts across neurobiology and child development, economic evaluation, health services research and policy. Her work translates knowledge from research to evidence-based disability policy.

“Barriers to accessing necessary supports for children and youth with disability are underpinned by fragmentation of service delivery, which negatively impacts health outcomes, family functioning and quality of life, and often leads to inappropriate and inefficient health-care utilization,” says Zwicker.

“This CRC research program aims to mitigate this fragmentation, utilizing mixed methods, economic evaluation and policy analysis to inform policy around the allocation of funding and services to develop health and social systems that help children and youth with disability and their families, thrive.”

Impact in Alberta and across Canada

Zwicker’s research will translate knowledge of methods and findings to influence system-level improvement not just in Alberta, but other Canadian provinces as well.

Dr. Ron Kneebone, PhD, scientific director of the school’s Social Policy and Health research division, said, “I am fortunate to work at The School of Public Policy with colleagues like Jen Zwicker. My own interests in poverty and homelessness mean that we confer frequently and build off one another’s knowledge and experience. Her focus on practical solutions to difficult issues of public policy exactly describes the school’s mission.”

The research findings will have valuable policy implications for provincial and federal health, education and social service ministries to predict and plan for improved provision of efficient, equitable and inclusive services and supports.

One of 11 Canada Research Chairs at UCalgary in 2020

Focused on social policy and health-care reform, Zwicker received her PhD in neurophysiology from the University of Alberta and her Master of Public Policy from the University of Calgary School of Public Policy.

Zwicker was one of 11 University of Calgary scholars recently awarded Canada Research Chairs. The Canada Research Chair Program helps Canada achieve the goal of being one of the world’s top performers in research and development, by investing up to $295 million per year to attract and retain diverse, world-class researchers.