Jeff Masuda named CAHS fellow

 

Jeff Masuda

Public health scholar Jeff Masuda has been named a fellow to the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS), one of the highest honours in the country’s health sciences community. 

Masuda, a professor in the School of Public Health and Social Policy, is among 48 scholars recently named to the CAHS. For Masuda, the accolade builds on his career as a health geographer and supports his work in causing “good trouble” in public health policy and practice by "unsettling its complicity in colonial and white supremacist histories that have produced systemic health inequities today," he says.

Becoming a CAHS fellow will give Masuda an opportunity to advocate for a different way of doing research—centred on the strengths of communities facing injustices related to environment, housing, and climate change. 

“I see this as a way to contribute to the advancement of a form of public health practice centered around the idea that the best and most untapped source of health expertise comes from the people facing housing issues themselves,” Masuda says. “I’m doing research that folds back into the community so the community itself can be more effective policy advocates.”

Known for his role with the Right to Remain (R2R), a participatory research collective in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, Masuda strives to contribute to a movement of tenants who work to improve living conditions for thousands living with severe housing adversity in Single Room Occupancy (SRO) buildings. 

Through his work, he hopes to disrupt how housing policies are produced, both within and beyond Canada. While many of today’s conversations focus on the housing crisis affecting the middle-class, Masuda says transformational change can only come from investing in the most affordable segment of the housing supply, including SROs, which have been left to deterioriate for decades due to underinvestment at all government levels.

In terms of climate justice, Masuda says the 2021 heat dome in BC, which caused 619 heat-related deaths, shows climate justice, housing, and public health are intrinsically linked. He says the ecological basis of the COVID-19 pandemic further proves that society needs to rethink how to approach public health.

“What is missing is a structural critique of the underlying systems that produce crisis in the first place, that is, the antecedent causes of the causes ... that might get us toward a whole-of-society transformation that includes, and benefits, everyone,” Masuda says.

In a supporting letter, UVic Vice-President Research and Innovation Lisa Kalynchuk says Masuda will bring a strong justice-focused lens to academic health sciences.

“Dr. Masuda believes that it is possible to build healthier communities for all Canadians by working from the bottom up and by distributing social, economic, and health resources more equitably, beginning with significant reinvestments in Canada’s social contract along the social and environmental determinants of health,” she wrote.

Masuda also recently received a $25,000 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Connection grant. The grant will support a knowledge sharing and exchange partnership between the Right to Remain collective and non-Anglophone community-based scholars and housing justice organizers at the International Conference of Critical Geographies (ICCG) gathering in Mexico City in October.