Advancing equity through public health policy


- Katy DeCoste

Natasha Thambirajah
Natasha Thambirajah

Natasha Thambirajah’s career has taken a few unexpected turns since she first enrolled at UVic as an undergraduate student in biochemistry. When she audited a history course, she discovered a passion for the humanities, eventually graduating with a degree in history and political science. She never expected to begin a fifteen-year career in the public service, making strides towards equity in public health policy.

“I think the most challenging part of my job is changing people’s minds,” says Natasha, who has worked on transformative, citizen-centred public policy, including the BC Services Card and the modernization of gender identity expression on government-issued identification. For health policy, changing minds can be particularly difficult. “It requires a completely different way of thinking about how you collaborate, how you work with people, how you build relationships, how you find yourself allies. Sometimes change is incremental. Policy is a marathon, it’s not a sprint. It’s like an ultramarathon.”

What makes these challenges worthwhile is that Natasha sees public health policy as a space for advancing equity in tangible ways that impact people’s lives. She describes a recent policy effort on culturally safe virtual healthcare as a particular victory. 

It talks about how we think about designing services and systems. If you’re going to evaluate policy, the only people that can tell you if something was culturally safe was the actual recipient of the services themselves, and you’re going to have to do that in a safe manner.”

Natasha Thambirajah 

Now, informed by her experience in white and male-dominated leadership spaces as a woman of colour, Natasha is moving into a new phase of her career: founding an inclusive, equitable and BIPOC friendly strategic management consultancy, Haven Consulting. It’s a natural next step for a born leader, whose joy in her career with the public service came as much from managing her team of staff as from working on policy. Moving forward, she hopes to see leadership spaces that are more inclusive and welcoming of women and BIPOC people. 

“Leadership is not as diverse as it could be,” says Natasha. “We need to inspire future generations by reflecting back to them what their potential could be—that includes a diverse leadership.”

Hear more about Natasha’s journey on the latest episode of Work It: A UVic career exploration podcast, where we connect with UVic alumni to hear about their transition into the world of work.


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Keywords: community, alumni, employment, health, political science

People: Natasha Thambirajah

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