Heather Bullock

Study program:
Health Policy
Current affiliation:
McMaster University

Heather Bullock (health policy, McMaster University) is identifying the best ways to embed mental health policy into daily practice across the different layers of Canada’s social system.

Doctoral research

How Do Systems Achieve their Goals? The Role of Implementation in Mental Health Systems Improvement

Tackling mental illness and addictions is an important challenge faced across the world. Those with mental ill health encounter many societal barriers, often stemming from stigma and discrimination, that can affect their ability to participate as full members of society. Governments are working to create policies and strategies to address mental ill health; this requires mobilizing multiple sectors, such as health, education, and justice. But while we now have research about programs and services that work, and policy directions aimed at achieving better mental health outcomes, we still do not know enough about how to embed these policies and programs into daily practice across large systems – a process called implementation.

The objective of Heather’s dissertation is to advance the understanding of implementation strategies for addressing such complex challenges. As such, it will answer questions that relate to systems change efforts on this scale. How have countries and other large systems structured implementation efforts? What approaches to implementation are being undertaken across systems in terms of goals, structures, and methods, and are they successful? And what aspects of the implementation process are important for success?

Answers to questions such as these will help policymakers findbetter ways to implement the strategies and policies they develop. And better implementation means more citizens benefitting from proven programs and services that are needed across populations.

Finally, Heather hopes that her research will also provide insight on how society’s collective values can be realized by more effectively implementing policy directions for complex social challenges.

Heather Bullock, MSc, is pursuing her PhD in the Health Policy program at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada and is part of the McMaster Health Forum's Impact Lab. She is the recipient of an Ontario Graduate Scholarship (2016-2017). Heather has an extensive background in health care policy and knowledge mobilization, holding progressive leadership positions. She is on leave from her position as director of knowledge exchange at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Canada’s largest mental health and addictions teaching hospital. In this role, she developed and led Evidence Exchange Network, an innovative knowledge mobilization initiative that aims to make Ontario’s mental health and addiction system more evidence-informed. She also helped build a program that supports implementation efforts in Ontario’s mental health and addictions system.

Heather has worked for the Government of Ontario as a research transfer advisor where she connected people within government with the best available research evidence to support evidence-informed policy-making. She also holds a Faculty of Medicine appointment at the University of Toronto and instructs a graduatecourse in knowledge translation at the Institute for Health Policy, Management and Evaluation. Her teaching experience includes co-instructing a graduate course in knowledge translation at McMaster University’s School of Rehabilitation Science and as part of the faculty for the Knowledge Translation Professional Certificate course offered through The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

Heather’s research interests lie in how large jurisdictions implement evidence-informed policy directions in mental health systems. Her dissertation is exploring how developed countries structure their implementation efforts and how Ontario implements policy in its mental health and addiction system. Heather serves in an advisory capacity for several provincial, national, and international initiatives such as the International Knowledge Exchange Network for Mental Health and the Provincial Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health. Her expertise is sought globally and she has conducted training in knowledge mobilization and implementation for the governments of Ireland, Sweden, and Saskatchewan, and for the University of Toronto and the University of Ottawa among others. She has master’-level training in behavioural ecology and evolutionary psychology from Queen’s University.