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A retirement statement from Connie Clement, outgoing scientific director of the NCCDH

Written ByConnie ClementConnie Clement | February 27, 2019
Connie Clement

Connie Clement, BSc

Scientific Director Emeritus

Connie Clement joined the National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health (NCCDH) in January 2011. Previously, Connie was the Executive Director of Social Venture Partners Toronto, a venture philanthropy collaborative, and Health Nexus/Nexus Santé, Canada’s premiere health promotion consultancy. She was Director of Planning and Policy at Toronto Public Health when six public health units merged, and previously held varied health promotion and sexual health management and front-line positions. Connie holds a BSc in Biology/Sociology from Trent University.

Connie Clement (centre) and members of the NCCDH team (September 2018)


As most of you know, I am about to retire — my last day of full-time work is March 1, 2019. The National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health (NCCDH) and St. Francis Xavier University have shared the exciting news that Dr. Claire Betker will be the Centre’s next scientific director. Claire’s arrival in March makes it easy for me to step away.

As I retire, I am heartened at how many Canadian public health practitioners and organizations devote expertise and effort to advance health equity in their communities — many more than eight years ago when I arrived at the NCCDH.

A note of gratitude

I take deep satisfaction knowing that the NCCDH team contributed to this change, and by team, I include many, each of whom I thank for your contributions to the NCCDH’s impacts. 

  • NCCDH staff, of course. I’ve been honoured to work with smart, skilled, hard-working colleagues (and predecessors) who relish the privilege of improving health equity knowledge and helping the sector put that knowledge into action through public health practice, policy, programs and structures. You helped sharpen our methods, nurtured relationships, created opportunities and deepened impact. It has been my privilege to support each of you.
  • NCCDH staff members and members of the NCCDH advisory board
    (November 2015)
    The NCCDH’s advisory board members (present and past) provided me with essential, timely, wise and always forward-looking advice. You encouraged me to balance evidence with innovation, to deepen exchange and to trust the field while driving change.
  • Our numerous, enthusiastic collaborators, from all public health disciplines and from numerous health authorities/units/agencies, universities and non-governmental organizations. You advised and provided feedback to keep me on my toes. You willingly became case story subjects, co-authored or informed resources, actively participated in generating learning and co-designed events.
  • St Francis Xavier University, our excellent host. You facilitated our ability to specialize by supporting business operations, improving our offices and bringing us inside Atlantic research and knowledge networks, especially regarding shared research usage, knowledge, health and social justice commitments.
  • The other NCCs. Having earlier been part of other federated networks, I valued the opportunity to build upon each others’ niches. You exposed to me new approaches and worldviews, leveraged impact by combining forces and, most of all, challenged me such that I learned and grew in numerous ways.
  • The Public Health Agency of Canada and other funders have provided the resources necessary for the NCCDH’s existence. 
  • At the periphery of our ‘team’ — yet as essential as audience is to musician — are the NCCDH’s users. You have impressed — and delighted — me in your readiness, dedication and creativity to apply the knowledge we translate. A highlight has always been meeting you, receiving your notes and hearing your stories of how we’ve made your work more doable.

Bright lights

I am proud of the NCCDH’s accomplishments, and share a few highlights.

  • The Let's Talk series
    The NCCDH’s Lets Talk resources are widely used in public health department orientation, as planning tools and in university curricula. These resources appear deceptively simple, yet renderingcomplex concepts into understandable sub-components is not for the faint hearted. Through these resources, as well as the Centre’s Glossary of Essential Health Equity Terms, we’ve contributed to improving basic and more consistent understanding.
  • The in-person forums that the NCCDH has co-hosted with partners stand out as powerhouse events. Early in my tenure — having confirmed that published evidence specifically about public health action to advance health equity was thin — we chose to promote successes and facilitate exchange of promising practices. We did this by delivering knowledge events and writing case studies, with each event and case co-analysed, tailored and developed with practitioner and researcher partners.
  • Our adoption of participatory learning methods has strengthened networks and produced influential resources. In 2012 when we started a participatory national project to integrate equity into population health status reporting, few jurisdictions had undertaken reporting with a deep equity analysis. Last week, I easily shared examples of effective reports from across the country. Currently, a learning circle and practice sites are assessing principles, elements and tools to support public health organizational capacity to advance health equity.
  • Our webinars routinely have high attendance, widening audiences and recordings downloaded as resources long after delivery.
  • The networks that the NCCDH supports reduces isolation of health equity specialists and champions and increases cross-jurisdictional learning. The Health Equity Collaborative Network (composed of public health’s determinants and equity specialists) hosts topical quarterly meetings, often inviting presenters. The Health Equity Clicks: Community (our open, online network) has more than

    Toward health equity: Practical actions for public health inspectors (2016)
    20 volunteers lined up to host online conversations. Equally important is the NCCDH’s informal contribution to public health networks observable in heightened collegial info-sharing across boundaries, the ongoing exchange between two researchers working on opposite sides of Canada’s official language divide, and the brokering we play between provincial public health associations.
  • Among collaborations with the other NCCs, our joint focus with the NCC for Environmental Health to support public health inspectors to understand and address social determinants of health stands out. Together, we created tailored resources, influenced local and provincial environmental health program and strategy changes and partnered with the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspection, most recently resulting in enhanced equity attention within instructional objectives for public health inspectors.
  • The NCCDH’s willingness to innovate and change internally has allowed us to model change as we strive to walk our equity talk. Becoming anti-racist and anti-oppressive in our NCCDH systems, processes and outputs is hard, ongoing work, resulting in more effective staff knowledge, responsiveness, skills and deliverables, as well as heartfelt appreciation from Indigenous colleagues and practitioners of colour. 

The above highlights should not be read as downplaying the NCCDH’s ongoing deliverables. For instance, our Resource Library is a go-to source for our own resources and resources curated from around the globe; audiences for our webinars are increasing and widening, with post-webinar recordings viewed long after delivery. In production is an Introduction to health equity online course, anxiously awaited by public health departments and university faculty. Modules to help middle managers integrate equity focus into fulfillment of professional competencies are also forthcoming.

Considering impact

I feel rewarded that the NCCDH’s evaluation findings and evaluation of the NCC program overall. Data demonstrates the NCCDH’s significant contribution to increased practitioner knowledge; changes in public health programming, practices, resource development, curricula, policy and advocacy; and reallocation of resources. NCCDH partners report a “great deal” of benefit in terms of heightened profile of equity-focused work, enhanced ability to achieve objectives, greater impact than would have been achieved if not working with NCCDH, enhanced legitimacy, better products and improved relationships.

Repeated Federal evaluation has found the NCCs, as a group, to have continuing relevance, to be effective and efficient. An external evaluator identified six NCC influence mechanisms: impact on workforce skills and capacity; increased understanding and application of evidence; integration of Indigenous perspectives; strengthened evidence-informed policies, programs and practices; greater sharing across jurisdictions and networks; and identification and responsiveness to a wide range of gaps.

Looking ahead

These evaluation findings contribute to my confidence that Claire is joining a thriving centre and program with readiness to further improve strategies, methods and impact. And, I retire with deep trust that users and partners will continue to benefit from — and contribute to — the NCCDH’s contributions to public health decision-making and capacity to advance health equity.

I wish each and every one of you receiving this communication the best in your careers and personal lives. I’ll be counting on you to carry on the work we did together.


Connie Clement

Scientific Director, National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health

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