Research Report 2008

Studying our sense of community

Dr. Martha Traverso- Yépez felt at home the first time she visited Newfoundland. “For me ‘home’ is wherever I feel comfortable with me, my values, my actions and my relations with other human beings.” And for Dr. Traverso- Yépez, who recently joined Memorial University as a Tier II Canada Research Chair in Health Promotion and Community Development, a sense of community is not only important on a personal level but an important aspect of her research.

Her research examines health promotion that focuses on entire communities, not just individuals.

Dr. Martha Traverso- Yépez

Dr. Traverso- Yépez’s interests are shaped by her experiences in Brazil. She’s looking at the importance of the psychosocial, economic, cultural and political aspects influencing the health-illness process and interventions. She believes that Newfoundland and Labrador, being a province with harsh living conditions, has made people more conscious of the fact that we are not isolated human beings that we depend on others in all human situations.

Since earning her PhD in social psychology from the Universidad Complutense in Madrid in 1996, Dr. Traverso- Yépez has been working in Natal (RN), Brazil on health issues such as the subjective experience and meanings of the health-illness process and health care interventions.

Her research is in health promotion and community action in deprived contexts and the influence of social class, power relations and economic inequities on health care. She is also interested in adolescents’ health and wellbeing and vulnerable population’s health promotion and wellbeing.

Dr. Traverso- Yépez considers the main challenge when dealing with health promotion strategies is to keep a multi-faceted approach, paying attention to the psychosocial, economical, cultural and political aspects influencing the health-illness process and interventions. She deems it especially important to have the political will to support social and financial investments in health promotion initiatives. “A caring attitude and readiness to listen and to accept differences, keeping an open dialogue about all stakeholders, are key contributions from my perspective in social psychology,” she said.

Dr. Traverso-Yepez, who spent a sabbatical here from 2004-2005 in the Division of Community Health and Humanities, says she chose Memorial University because of its interdisciplinary approach to medicine. “We are essentially social beings, and as we are interdependent, we need to care not only for ourselves, but for others and for everything which is around us, including our social and political policies. For me, these different levels of caring is a key aspect in health promotion and community development, and it cannot be a punctual or temporary concern, but an everlasting one. I am seeing it as a challenge to investigate the ways to build upon this strength that I think exists here in Newfoundland.” And she’s hoping, because of our “connected and interdependent world”, positive action on this side of the globe will influence other parts of the world.

Copyright © 2008 Memorial University of Newfoundland