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Gerald McKinley

2023–24 Canadian Harkness Fellow; Assistant Professor, Schulich Interfaculty Program in Public Health, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Western Ontario

Photo, headshot of Gerald McKinley

Placement: Cornell University

Mentor: Stacey Langwick, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Cornell University

Project: Storied Society: Integrating Qualitative Analysis into Environmental Health Policy

Gerald P. McKinley, Ph.D., is a 2023–24 Canadian Harkness Fellow in Health Care Policy and Practice. He is a medical and environmental anthropologist who specializes in relationship-based research with First Nations communities in Ontario, Canada. McKinley’s research explores the intersection of physical and social environmental with mental health through a social determinants of health lens. He is particularly interested in how to use qualitative methods to decrease the negative impacts of environmental change on Indigenous communities through effective environmental health policy development. Additionally, he has a background in community partnerships for the development of adolescent suicide prevention programs with First Nations communities. McKinley is core faculty in the Schulich Interfaculty Program in Public Health and One Health programs, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, Western University. He completed his postdoctoral training in Psychiatry at the University of Toronto, Canada, and is a mentor in the Michigan Integrative Well-Being and Inequality (MIWI) Training Program at the University of Michigan.

Project Overview: This research aims to increase mental health equity impacts from environmental policy through the use of qualitative research. Using discursive and narrative analysis methodologies, it will juxtapose economic evaluations with a variety of community-based, lived-experience narratives to identify areas for health equity action. The goal is to understand the scoping and development of policies and the flows of power and influences which guide them, aiming to meaningfully increase community involvement in the process. Additionally, it will document the existing discursive structures which support current policy development. A One Health approach will be used to reflect the complexity of environmental health policy and focus on the indirect effects of environmental degradation on human health.

Focusing on the mental health of marginalized communities in the United States and Canada, this work will explore how policy development relates to changing access to local ecosystem services and impacts the social structure and health of communities through changes to their affordances. It will develop tools to integrate lived experiences into policy. For example, the loss of fish to environmental degradation in a certain geography can reduce the amount of time that social relations spend collecting and preparing fish, which in turn can negatively impact wellness. This work will explore the meaning-making process associated with the environment: how do meaning and culture interact within an ecosystem, how meaning is ecosystem-specific, how meanings move across space and time, and how rigid views can increase the negative impact of indirect effects.