Profile: Michelle Driedger

Dr. S. Michelle Driedger, Associate Professor, Tier II Canada Research Chair in Environment and Health Risk Communication, Department of Community Health Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada; and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Geography, University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Michelle’s broad areas of research interest include environment and health, risk construction, risk perception and communication, population health and knowledge transfer.

Michelle Driedger has a strong background in geography and holds a BA (Honours) from the University of Winnipeg, a MA from Carleton University (with David Bennett ), a PhD from McMaster University (with John Eyles ), and a Post-Doc at McMaster (with Susan Elliott ). Michelle’s first academic appointment was in the Department of Geography at the University of Ottawa as an Assistant Professor until January 2006 when she moved to the University of Manitoba. Although no longer in a Geography department, Michelle s new department is very interdisciplinary. While her colleagues come from different disciplinary backgrounds (sociology, anthropology, economics, political science, etc.), they all bring their varied perspectives towards a richer understanding of population, public health, and health services research.

Drawing mainly on qualitative methods, Michelle s primary research focus involves the study of how new and emerging risk controversies develop within a science-policy context in environment and health. As is characteristic of risk controversies, her research program represents issue-driven inquiries where the facts are uncertain, values are in dispute, the stakes are high and decisions are urgent. Specifically, she is interested in how we communicate these uncertainties within civil society.

Michelle has a number of projects that are currently funded: the role of knowledge translation in pandemic preparedness; and the role of public trust in government action in situations of uncertainty using a cross-case study analysis in a First Nations, Inuit, and M tis community, of which she leads the H1N1 M tis case study; evaluating how successful public health agencies have been at communicating risks to the public and health professionals in the most recent H1N1 pandemic; and looking at how best to communicate uncertainty in health services knowledge translation work, focusing on cancer outcomes (in particular the HPV program). She is currently co-leading a systematic review of communicating uncertainty to the public in situations of environment and health (funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research). In addition to these projects, Michelle has several data sets that can be mined: 1) investigating changes in Ontario drinking water risk perceptions post-Walkerton with a particular focus on exploring the impact of the Ontario Safe Drinking Water Act in rebuilding public trust; 2) examining the potential for public participation in risk management decisions under conditions of scientific uncertainty; and 3) examining the usefulness of maps and web-based mapping programs in facilitating evidence based decisions in the area of early years children programming in Ontario.

To find out more about Michelle’s research or about graduate or other research opportunities, please visit her website: or contact her directly by email at

Updated: January 2011