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Faculty Member

Ellen MacEachen Ph.D., M.Sc., B.A.

Email Address(es)
Office Phone
519-888-4567 X37248
Office Address
University of Waterloo School of Public Health and Health Systems, 200 University Avenue West Waterloo, ON N2L 3G1
Centre for Research on Work Disability Policy
Social & Behavioural Health Sciences Division
Associate Professor
SGS Status
Full Member
Appointment Status
Status Only

Research Interests

  • work disability policy
  • organisation of occupational health systems
  • disability management and labour force participation
  • injured and vulnerable workers
  • qualitative methods

Education & Training History

Ph.D., Public Health Sciences, University of Toronto, 2003

M.Sc. Rehabilitation Medicine, Queen's University, 1993

B.A. Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University, 1988 (including a one-year academic exchange at University of Wales, Swansea, UK)

Other Affiliations

Associate Professor, School of Public Health and Health Systems, University of Waterloo

Co-Director, Centre for Research on Work Disability Policy 

Senior Scientist (adjunct), Institute for Work & Health

Associate Professor (cross appointment), Rehabiltation Sciences Institute, University of Toronto

Associate Professor (adjunct), Department of Health, Ageing and Society, McMaster University

Associate Editor, Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation

Academic Fellow, Centre for Critical Qualitative Health Research, University of Toronto

Academic Council, Pacific Coast University for Workplace Health Sciences

Primary Teaching Responsibilities

University of Waterloo:

HLTH344 Evaluation, Qualitative, and Survey Methods

PHS652 Qualitative and Mixed Methods and Analysis

HSG732 Work and Health Research Seminar

Professional Summary & Appointments

I have had a status appointent with the Dalla Lana School of Public Health since 2004. During this time, I have been involved with service activity, developing and teaching courses in qualitative research methodology and analysis for the health sciences, and mentoring students on work and health research. I was a founding fellow of the Centre for Critical Qualitative Enquiry and continue an active rrelationship with the Centre.

In 2014, I joined the Scool of Public Health and Health Systems at the University of Waterloo, following my role as a Senior Scientist at the Institute for Work & Health, Toronto.

My research program is informed by a critical social science perspective—one that considers the organisation of health systems within their social, political, legal and economic contexts. A fundamental question is: what is the logic of systems, and that informs and drives the diverse sets of actors that constitute systems? My methodological expertise lies in qualitative research methods, systematic reviews, and knowledge translation and exchange.

In the spring of 2013, I was awarded (with Co-Director Emile Tompa), a $2.78M SSHRC Partners Grant to create a 7-year national Canadian program of research on work disability policy.  The Centre for Research on Work Disability Policy assembles a multidisciplinary group of over 50 researchers and 50 partners (state, community, labour) to consider the challenge of our fragmented Canadian work disability system. The ultimate goal of the centre’s research program is to improve public policy that fosters paid labour-market engagement of all people, including when injured or disabled.

Much of my research has focused on how state occupational health and safety systems for injury prevention and disability management are designed and operate (including vocational retraining systems, return-to-work systems), workplace inspection systems}. I recently completed a systematic review of qualitative peer-reviewed literature on the design and implementation of occupational health and safety regulations to protect workers from occupational injury. 

Health systems need to be relevant to local organizational contexts and implementable. I have focused a part of my research on how occupational health systems fit with and are implemented in particularly challenging work organisation contexts (studies of the boom-and-bust software sector, small businesses, the temp agency sector with the three-way employment situation) and for complex, poorly understood health conditions (repetitive strain injury). 

Honours & Awards

  • Visiting Fellow, School of Behavioural, Social and Cognitive Sciences, University of New England, Armidale, New South Wales, Australia, April 2015.
  • Philip Biggin Memorial Award "for recognition of long time support of injured workers, occupational health research and continual work as a professor in work disability prevention". Awarded by Injured Workers Outreach Services in partnership with Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board and Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario. Toronto, April 30, 2014
  • Robin Bagley Award for Excellence in Teaching (Early Career).  Faculty Award, Department of Public Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, 2007.

Current Research Projects

2013-2020. Tompa, E. & MacEachen, E. (Co-Directors); (Co-Investigators, in alphabetical order) Baril-Gingras, G., Bornstein, S., Boucher, N., Breslin, C., Calvert, J., Cooke, G., Côté, P., Coutu, M.F., Dawe, D., de Boer, C., Dewa, C., Durand, M.J., Facey, M., Gewurtz, R., Grignon, M., Hanes, R., Heymann, J., Holness, L., Jennissen, T., Koehoorn, M., Laberge, M., Latimer, E., McLeod, C., Montreuil, S., Neis, B., Noël, A., O’Campo, P., Ostry, A., Premji, S., Provencher, Y., Rioux, M., Saunders, R., Scott-Marshall, H., Shaw, L., Small, S., White, M., Zeytinoglu, I.; (Collaborators, in alphabetical order) Bernier, J., Finkler, E., Franche, R.L., Helfand, N., Ison, T., King, A., Lippel, K., Loisel, P., MacAhonic, P., Mendelson, M., Stapleton, J., Torjman, S.; (Total of 49 co-investigators and collaborators and 45 partner organizations). Income Security and Labour-Market Engagement: Envisioning the Future of Disability Policy in Canada. Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Partnership Grant. $2,760,782 for 7 years.

2014-2015 MacEachen, E. (PI), Tompa, E. Ekberg, K., Petricone, I., Kosny, A.., Du, B. Scoping review of work disability policy gaps and challenges. Centre for Research on Work Disability (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Award 895-2012-1017). $16,203.16.

2014-2016 Laberge, M., Breslin, C., MacEachen, E. Élaboration des critères de conception d’un outil d’aide à l’évaluation des risques liés à la SST par les enseignants superviseurs de stage du Parcours de formation axée sur l’emploi. IRSST. $96,944.

2014-2016 Kosny, A. (P.I.) and (in alphabetical order) Beaton, D.E., Cooper, J., Furlan, A., Koehoorn, M., MacEachen, E., Neis, B. Engaging health care providers in the return to work process. Workers’ Compensation Board of Manitoba Research and Workplace Innovation Program. $174,252.

2013-2015. Viikari-Juntura, E. (P.I.), Solovieva, S., Martimo, K.P., Kivekäs, T., Kausto, J., Virta, L., Laaksonen, M., Burdorf, A., MacEachen, E. Efficacy and effectiveness of occupational interventions in enhancing return to work: experimental and quasi-experimental studies. Academy of Finland. EURO 457,745 (CAD $615,000).

Representative Publications

  • Viikari-Juntura, E. and MacEachen, E. (2015) Editorial: Work modification as a treatment for low back pain. Scandivavian Journal for Research on Work, Environment and Health. E-pub 06 March. doi:10.5271/sjweh.3494
  • Seing, I*, MacEachen, E. (Co-PA), Stahl, C., Ekberg, C. (2015). Early-return-to-work in the context of an intensification of working life and changing employment relationships. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 25(1): 74-85. DOI 10.1007/s10926-014-9526-5.
  • MacEachen, E., Kosny, A., Ferrier, S., Lippel, K., Neilson, C., Franche, R.L., Pugliese, D. (2013). The ideal of consumer choice: challenges with implementation in an Ontario injured worker vocational retraining program.  Disability and Rehabilitation, 35(25), 2171-2179.
  • Loisel, P., Anema, H. (Editors) and Feuerstein, M., Pransky, G., MacEachen, E., Costa-Black, K., (Co-Editors). 2013 Handbook of Work Disability: Prevention and Management. Springer Press.
  • Dunstan, D.*, MacEachen, E. (2013). Bearing the brunt: Co-workers’ experiences of work reintegration processes. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 23(1), 44-54.
  • MacEachen, E., Lippel, K., Saunders, R., Kosny, A., Mansfield, L., Carrasco, C., Pugliese, D. (2012). Workers’ compensation experience rating rules and the danger to worker safety in the temporary work agency sector. Policy and Practice in Health and Safety 10 (1), 77-95.
  • MacEachen, E. , Kosny, A., Ferrier, S., Lippel, K., Neilson, C., Franche, R.L., Pugliese, D. (2012) The ‘ability’ paradigm in vocational rehabilitation: challenges in an Ontario Injured worker retraining program, Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 22(1), 105-117.
  • Tjulin, Å.*, MacEachen, E. (Co-PA), Edvardsson Stiwne, E., Ekberg, K. (2011) The social interaction of return to work explored from co-workers experiences. Disability and Rehabilitation, 33 (21-22), 1979-1989.
  • MacEachen, E. , Kosny, A., Ferrier, S., Chambers, L. (2010). The ‘toxic dose’ of system problems: why some injured workers don’t return to work as expected, Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 20(3), 349-366.
  • MacEachen, E. , Kosny, A., Scott-Dixon, K., Facey, M., Chambers, L., Breslin, C., Kyle, N. , Irvin, E., Mahood, Q. and the Small Business Systematic Review Team (2010). Workplace health understandings and processes in small businesses: A systematic review of the qualitative literature. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 20(2):180-98.
  • MacEachen, E., Polzer, J., Clarke, J. (2008) You are free to set your own hours”: Governing worker productivity and health through flexibility and resilience. Social Science & Medicine, 66(5), 1019-1033.
  • MacEachen E, Ferrier S, Kosny A, and Chambers L. (2007). A deliberation on ‘hurt versus harm’ logic in early-return-to-work policy. Policy and Practice in Health and Safety, 5(2), 41-62.
  • MacEachen, E, Clarke, J., Franche, R.-L., Irvin, E. (2006). The process of return to work after injury: findings of a systematic review of qualitative studies. Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health, 32(4), 257-269.