Elaine Power is an associate professor in the School of Kinesiology & Health Studies at Queen’s University. In her favourite course, Health 101, The Social Determinants of Health, she teaches students that social factors, such as poverty, racism and income inequality, and not just individual lifestyle choices, affect health. Queen’s students have responded enthusiastically—in the fall of 2014, the class size will grow to 650 students, more than double its original size ten years ago.
Dr. Elaine is the eldest of five children, and grew up in a working-class family during the 1960s and 70s in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. She was the first on her father’s side to go to university and only the second on her mother’s side. Never in her wildest dreams as a child could she ever have imagined becoming a university professor.
Growing up in a small town beside the North Atlantic Ocean, Dr. Elaine went to school with everyone from the fisherman’s kids to the doctor’s kids. It gave her a sense of the randomness of the circumstances of our births and lives. Contemporary research is only starting to reveal the many complex ways in which our family circumstances in childhood—and even before we are born—impact our health and our chances of success as adults.
Trained in sociology (and human nutrition), Dr. Elaine is interested in understanding the ways in which the deck is stacked against those who are born into or fall into poverty. She is passionate about finding new ways to live together that would provide everyone with adequate resources to enable more of us to become all that we can be. Dr. Elaine has become an advocate of extending to all Canadians the basic income guarantee that we provide our seniors. Canada is a wealthy country with more than enough for all. Dr. Elaine expects that our descendants will wonder what took us so long to collectively look after each other.
Dr. Elaine believes that one of the biggest barriers to ending poverty in Canada is the stereotypes we carry about those who live in poverty. She hopes that her documentary, current working title, No Way to Live, will help shatter those stereotypes and open minds and hearts to create a tipping point of change.
Dr. Elaine has lived in Kingston for ten years, and is the happy mother of Claire and their cat, Daisy. Dr. Elaine likes to grow vegetables in her back yard and is a practitioner of Iyengar yoga.
No Way to Live, her first documentary, is coming soon. If you want to help fund or volunteer to support this project, please contact Dr. Elaine here.