Heather McKay

Wall Scholar


Professor, Faculty of Medicine


Centre for Hip Health and Mobility





Geographic Location

Heather McKay

Professor McKay’s research program investigates health promotion and chronic disease prevention strategies to enhance health at key time points: childhood, adolescence and later life.

Her research evaluates the positive role of physical activity, other lifestyle factors and the built environment on children’s health and older adult physical health, mobility and social connectedness. Through an implementation science lens, she also evaluates scale-up of effective interventions as a means to improve health on a population level. Her work has directly influenced government policy.

Professor McKay is well known for building interdisciplinary teams and connecting with community partners to move research findings into action (knowledge mobilization). She has been in receipt of grants to support these teams, valued at more than $70M. She led the team that was awarded $40M from Canada Foundation for Innovations, donors and government to build the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility (inaugural Director; 2006-16). Professor McKay was recently inducted as a Fellow into the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. Her ability to meaningfully engage stakeholders, including government, to take upstream action to improve health was acknowledged through a Knowledge Translation Award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and a BC Woman of Distinction Award for Health & Active Living.


Primary Recipient Awards

Heather McKay – Wall Scholars – 2017

Heather McKay noted the imbalance between resources invested in discovering new interventions, treatments or approaches versus investments made to discern how to deliver proven interventions effectively – and at scale. Only 14% of research is translated into practice and to do so takes 17 years on average. Thus, people may never be offered an intervention that may effectively improve their health. Therefore, with government and other partners, Heather seeks to evaluate how best to implement effective school-and community-based interventions at scale to positively affect health of populations.
During Heather’s tenure as a Wall Scholar she hosted a group of international scholars for a ‘think tank’, titled Implementation and Scale-up Think Tank: Linking frameworks, outcomes and measures to assess scale-up of health promotion interventions.

Heather McKay – International Research Roundtables – 2016

Re-imagine Aging: Adding Life to Years
Principal Investigator(s): Dr. Heather Anne McKay, Centre for Hip Health and Mobility, Faculty of Medicine, UBC; Dr. Joanie Sims-Gould, Centre for Hip Health and Mobility, Department of Family Practice, UBC

Heather McKay – Wall Solutions – 2011

Transforming spaces, transforming lives: An integrated community partnership to enhance the health and mobility of older adults
Principal Investigator: Heather McKay, School of Kinesiology, UBC
Partner Organizations: City of Vancouver, West End Seniors Network
The growing older adult population is at risk of a host of age-related health problems and faces increasing challenges in getting out and around in their community, which has major social and economic implications. The aging demographic will challenge cities to adapt the urban environment to be “age-friendly”, to allow for people to live healthfully, comfortably and independently as they age.
This project capitalizes on a “natural experiment.” The City of Vancouver has committed funds to adapt features of the built environment in downtown Vancouver along the Comox-Helmcken Greenway to create an environment that puts walking and cycling first (mobility) and that highlights the role of place-making (social spaces that build a sense of community). In partnership with the City, we are evaluating the process of creating and implementing community-informed built environment changes and will measure their impact on mobility and health outcomes of older adults. This project will produce new knowledge on the influence of the built environment on older adult mobility and health which can be mobilized into finding solutions to slow the course of mobility decline and social isolation faced by older adults, and guidelines for cities that wish to make “age-friendly” built environment changes.

Heather McKay – Early Career Scholars – 2001

Co-Principal Investigator Awards

Claudia Mitchell – International Visiting Research Scholars – 2018

A broad area of concern in Dr. Mitchell’s research is the idea of engaging various publics in social change, particularly in relation to gender-based violence and other social justice concerns. Talking Public(s) in Socially Engaged Research with Young People will offer a public platform for deepening an understanding of two broad interdisciplinary areas of research crossing the humanities, social sciences, and health sciences: (1) young people and especially girls and young women speaking back (talking public) through the arts, media-making, and various participatory visual methods to address social justice issues, such as gender-based violence; and (2) researchers (talking public) in working with young people in the context of policy.  This work cuts across a number of key disciplinary areas, including Film Production and Education as her host faculties, along with Health Research, Indigenous and First Nations Studies, Law, Sociology, Child and Youth Studies, and Social Work.  She will be hosted by Drs. Shannon Walsh, Anthony Pare, Bonny Norton, and Heather McKay at UBC.


David Lubans – International Visiting Research Scholars – 2017
Joanie Sims-Gould – Wall Solutions – 2014

“I’d Rather Stay”: Visual Media as a Catalyst to Engage Community around Developing Strategies to Support the Mobility and Health of Older People

Principal Investigator(s): Dr. Joanie Sims-Gould and Dr. Heather McKay, Centre for Hip Health and Mobility, Faculty of Medicine UBC

Partner(s): Mr. Matt Herman, Healthy Living Branch, BC Ministry of Health

We seek solutions to the problem of mobility-disability in older people so as to support them living healthy, independent lives for as long as possible. Physically active older people enjoy and benefit from enhanced mobility. Our key partner– BC Ministry of Health – identified physical activity of older adult as one priority for BC’s Physical Activity Action Plan. We have the opportunity to use a novel strategy (facilitated community forums and an impactful video that generates discussion) to directly inform the Action Plan and potentially impact every community in BC. Therefore we will; i) implement community-led forums in 6 diverse BC communities, to (ii) identify factors that help or hinder seniors’ physical activity and mobility, while building community capacity; (iii) generate a guideline document to support community action; (iv) evaluate impact and share our findings broadly. Ultimately, we aim to enhance the quality of life of older persons in BC.