Making a difference through meaningful research
Watch Erin Berenbaum talk about:
- What led her to a career in public health
- Collaborating with others in the field
- Her advice to students
“I love seeing the impact of our work, seeing that it makes a difference,” says PHO research coordinator Erin Berenbaum. As a member of the Health Promotion, Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention team, Berenbaum conducts and supports research, and coordinates input and feedback, ensuring timely reports meet stakeholder needs. “PHO has an incredible research focus. I feel that our work is useful and that we are doing something to help someone.”
Berenbaum has been at PHO for four years, following completion of a master of science in Health Promotion. A university supervisor asked her if she thought about research as a career. As Berenbaum says, “I had never done research before, but one thing led to another and I enjoyed it and continued to pursue it.” Her current role, she says, offers diversity and numerous opportunities for learning.
“PHO has an incredible research focus, and I love seeing the impact of our work, seeing that it makes a difference. You feel that your work is useful and are doing something that helps someone.”
Berenbaum has worked on a variety of projects at PHO, including the Smoke-Free Ontario report, examining new evidence on different interventions given the 10-year anniversary of Ontario’s legislation and PHO’s 2010 report, Evidence to Guide Action. As part of this large report, Berenbaum is coordinating the work that goes into developing the report, and serving as a liaison with the scientific advisory committee, comprised of research experts in tobacco control, that is directing the work.
Berenbaum and colleagues’ work often emerges from stakeholder requests. For example, the report on mandatory bike helmet legislation emerged from a question posed by two Ontario medical officers of health who wanted to know the impacts of implementing all ages’ bike-helmet legislation. “This was an exciting project for me because it’s a highly relevant and controversial issue in Ontario that has been heavily debated,” says Berenbaum. She and her colleagues scoped the work and defined the research question. What would be the eventual product? A large systematic review? Or a small evidence brief? They decided on a knowledge synthesis to evaluate the impacts of bicycle helmet legislation for cyclists of all ages by exploring the effectiveness of laws in different jurisdictions. “Our report is important because it attempts to provide unbiased evidence regarding the impacts of bike helmet legislation and will ultimately help policy makers make decisions regarding cycling-related legislation.”
“The province’s new distracted driving penalties were implemented on
Sept. 1, 2015 so your report will be of tremendous interest to all of us.”
— Ontario Ministry of Transportation
Another large project Berenbaum supported is PHO’s report on texting and driving. Texting While Driving Behaviour among Ontario Youth and Young Adults emerged from an initial request from the Ontario Injury Prevention Practitioners Network (OIPPN). Berenbaum says that the team worked closely with OIPPN and other partners to better understand their requirements. According to Berenbaum, stakeholder engagement is essential to knowledge product development. “Refining the question with stakeholders is critical before even starting our work as it has to meet their specific needs. It’s rewarding to put the right information directly in the hands of users who find it valuable.”