ISBNPA 2024 Keynote Speakers

Heather McKay
University of British Columbia, Canada 


Research in health aging

Professor McKay is passionate about community-based health research—working with community partners to find ways to scale-up effective health interventions to positively effect health at a population level. Her program of research encompasses: (i) effective interventions and myriad factors that influence the health of children, and the physical (eg., mobility), social (e.g., social connectedness) and mental (e.g., loneliness) of older adults; (ii) the design, implementation and evaluation at scale of effective community-based health promoting interventions (implementation science), and (iii) knowledge mobilization. Professor McKay has published >260 peer reviewed papers and accrued >$70M in competitive grant funding. At UBC, Professor McKay is Active Aging Research Team lead scientist. She has a >15-year collaboration with BC Min of Health and currently leads a multi-level partnership (researchers, government, health authorities and NGOs) to enact Active Aging BC (ABC). Professor McKay’s research team is currently scaling up and evaluating ABC’s signature program--Choose to Move--across British Columbia. Choose to Move engaged more than 95 community based organizations as delivery partners and 8000 older adults. Choose to Move effectively enhanced physical activity, mobility and decreased social isolation and loneliness in older adults who participated.

Building interdisciplinary teams

Professor McKay convenes highly effective, interdisciplinary research teams. She connects scholars with an array of cross-sectoral community and government stakeholders to “move research into action” to positively impact the health of children and older adults. Professor McKay led eight CIHR and Peter Wall Institute of Advanced Studies teams that focused on aspects of older adult health (>$10M grant funding) in different settings (e.g. community, built environment, assisted living). Professor McKay was inaugural Director (2006-16), Centre for Hip Health & Mobility, a multidisciplinary, $40M CFI funded centre that aimed to enhance mobility and health across the life course. More recently she co-led UBC’s Healthy Aging Research Excellence cluster that convened 200 researchers, 50 trainees and 50 community partners across 10 academic disciplines to ignite collaboration in healthy aging research.

Kofi D. Essel, MD, MPH, FAAP
Elevance Health, USA


Kofi D. Essel, MD, MPH, FAAP, is the inaugural Food as Medicine Program Director at Elevance Health. As a core member of the Health Outcomes Organization team, he works to coordinate with the broader social impact strategy, health equity, and medical policy initiatives throughout the enterprise. He leads efforts in designing innovative approaches to address diet related chronic diseases and social risk using novel food interventions.

Dr. Essel is a board-certified community pediatrician at Children’s National Hospital(CNH) and Clinical Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the George Washington University(GWU) School of Medicine & Health Sciences in Washington, D.C. Most recently serving as the Director of the GWU Culinary Medicine Program. Dr. Essel has dedicated his career to advocacy/research around healthcare and public health workforce training, health disparities, and community engagement, with expertise and national recognition in the areas of addressing diet related chronic disease and food insecurity with patients and families.

Dr. Essel sits on the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Roundtable on Obesity Solutions’ Lived Experience Innovation Collaborative and was nationally recognized by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation for helping to create an innovative curriculum to enhance pediatric resident trainee skills on nutrition related disease management.

Dr. Essel sits on the board of directors for the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) and serves as physician advisor for the Partnership for a Healthier America’s “Veggies Early & Often” campaign. Dr. Essel is a member of the executive committee for the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Obesity. He also co-authored a national toolkit for pediatric providers to address food insecurity in their clinical settings with the AAP and FRAC. Dr. Essel earned a B.S. from Emory University with a focus on human biology/anthropology and earned his M.D. and M.P.H. in Epidemiology from GWU.

Lisa Powell
University of Illinois, Chicago, USA 


Lisa M. Powell, Ph.D. is a Distinguished Professor and Director in the Division Health Policy and Administration in the School of Public Health and Director of the Illinois Prevention Research Center in the Institute for Health Research and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr. Powell has extensive experience as an applied micro-economist in the empirical analysis of the effects of public policy on a series of behavioral outcomes. Much of her current research is on assessing the importance of economic and environmental factors (such as food prices, sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) taxes; access to food stores, fast-food restaurants, other eating places, and facilities for physical activity; and, television food advertising exposure) on food consumption and physical activity behaviors and as determinants of obesity, including related disparities. Her work has made substantial contributions to the evidence base for policymakers in the areas of SSB taxes and child-directed marketing. Dr. Powell is the recipient of the 2013 University of Illinois at Chicago Researcher of the Year Award in the Social Sciences. Dr. Powell’s research has been funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and she serves on a number of national and international expert advisory committees.

Luke Wolfenden
University of Newcastle, Australia


Luke Wolfenden is a behavioural scientist. In 2013 he commenced a NHMRC Career Development Fellowship. He graduated with a PhD in behavioural medicine in 2006. Since submission of his PhD he has worked with internationally recognised research institutions such as the UK Cochrane Centre, and was an invited visiting Fellow at the World Health Organization.  Nationally, Luke Wolfenden has been primarily responsible for the evaluation of Australia’s largest ever child obesity prevention program (Good for Kids. Good for Life.) where he led a research collaboration between the Prevention Research Centres of the University of Sydney, Hunter New England Area Health Service and NSW Health