Conference Program 

Draft: Subject to change

7:30 am - 8:45 am Registration, Breakfast, and Networking
8:45 am - 9:00 am Welcome  
Conference Chair, Hassan Vatanparast, PhD and CNS 
9:00 am - 9:30 am Why Focus on Nutrition and Health Status of Newcomers
Speaker: Hassan Vatanparast, PhD, University of Saskatchewan

Expand abstract and bio +/-

The rates of immigration to Canada are considerably increasing through the new initiatives by the federal government. Further, the recent influx of refugees from conflict regions, Syria in particular, and their settlement in large and small urban and rural areas, emerge concerns regarding their basic needs, particularly access to culturally appropriate and affordable food and access to nutritional care. Concerns about the nutritional health of refugees from a high prevalence of food insecurity and consumption of low quality food to their short and long-term consequences such as obesity, diabetes, and risk of cardiovascular diseases are directly relevant to academics and practitioners in the field of nutrition and health. An overview of the nutritional status of immigrant and refugees in Canada will be provided. Also, the need for more readiness for culturally appropriate care as well as research and scholarly activities will be discussed.

About the speaker:

Hassan is a professor of Nutritional Epidemiology with a joint appointment in the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition and the School of Public Health. He investigates the impact of nutrition and other lifestyle factors on chronic conditions in vulnerable populations.

Hassan is heavily involved in immigration health as a researcher, cultural competency consultant, and volunteer in community-based settlement agencies. Through Healthy Immigrant initiative, Hassan and his team conducted the first comprehensive study evaluating the nutritional health of newcomer children, access to care in newcomer families and cultural competency skills among healthcare professionals in Saskatchewan. He is also leading a multi-country study evaluating food security status of refugees with over 50 co-investigators, graduate students, and research personnel. Recently, through the current grants, Hassan and colleagues are evaluating the food security status of recent Syrian refugees in Saskatoon and Toronto. Hassan and his team are hoping to create a network of researchers, policymakers, practitioners and the community to improve the nutritional health of new Canadians.

9:30 am - 10:30 am Workshop #1  
Perspectives on Culturally Sensitive Nutritional Care - Cultural Competency in Dietetic Education
- Link: Linking Immigrants with Nutritional Knowledge

Moderated by:  Mahasti Khakpour, MSc, PhD(c), University of Saskatchewan and Hassan Vatanparast, PhD, University of Saskatchewan
11:00 am - 11:45 am Food Security Status of Refugees in Canada: A Social Perspective
Speaker: Bruce Newbold, PhD, McMaster University

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Traditional foods and ways of eating are a product of ecology, customs, and traditions that are tied to individual and cultural identity. But immigrating to a new country can bring about a loss of comfort, familiarity, and identity, including the loss of access to traditional foods. As much as possible, maintaining foodways may be an important component in maintaining one’s identity in their adopted country. Ultimately, food security and access to traditional foods can contribute to improved physical and mental health. For refugees, however, maintaining foodways may be a challenge due to low income, high food prices, lack of transportation and other barriers. As a result, household food insecurity is experienced by many refugees as they transition to life in Canada. By considering concepts of food availability, access, and use, this presentation will focus on the intersection between culture – which strongly influences food and eating – and food insecurity amongst refugees.

About the speaker:

Dr. Bruce Newbold is a Professor of Geography and the Director of the School of Geography and Earth Sciences (SGES) at McMaster University. He earned his PhD from McMaster in 1994, and has worked at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign before returning to McMaster in 2000. He has held guest scholar positions at the University of California San Diego and in the University of Glasgow’s Social and Public Health Sciences Unit. His research interests focus on population health issues, including aging and newcomer issues, including extensive work with Hamilton’s refugee and immigrant communities. As the former Director of the McMaster Institute of Environment & Health (MIEH, 2004-2013), Dr. Newbold worked closely with Hamilton Public Health Services on various topics, including water and air pollution, food safety, and other topics. He has authored numerous peer-reviewed papers, along with two textbooks on population issues.

11:45 am - 12:30 pm Workshop #2  
Social Integration and Food Security, Where are we at? Focusing on policies and community-based initiatives
Moderated by: Mahasti Khakpour, MSc, PhD(c), University of Saskatchewan and Ali Abukar, Saskatoon Open Door Society
1:00 pm - 1:45 pm Nutrition Transition and Acculturation Among Migrants
Speaker: Malek Batal, PhD, Université de Montréal

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The nutrition transition is a global phenomenon characterized by a shift from traditional diets to ones that are rich in processed foods high in saturated fat, salt and sugar, negatively affecting diet quality. The nutrition transition occurs at a different pace across the globe but is generally seen to be concomitant with epidemiological shifts that favour higher rates of non-communicable diseases. This nutrition transition can be most rapid for individuals undergoing a migration towards countries where processed foods are more available and are cheaper, a phenomenon known as dietary acculturation, as with new comers to Canada. This problem can be further exacerbated by the precarious economic situation these migrants often face.

About the speaker:

Malek Batal is professor of public health nutrition at the Department of Nutrition at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Montreal. He earned a Bachelor's Degree in human nutrition from the American University of Beirut and a Master's Degree in Food Science from the same University. He then completed doctoral studies in human nutrition at McGill University. Professor for 5 years at the American University of Beirut and then for 5 years at the University of Ottawa, he joined the University of Montreal in 2013. His research focuses on the environmental, social, economic and cultural determinants of food choice and their relationship to the health of individuals and the ecosystem in several populations, including First Nations in Canada where he is one of the principal investigators of the pan-Canadian First Nations Food, Nutrition and Environment Study ( that measures food intake and the risk of exposure to environmental contaminants in 100 on-reserve communities across the country. With funding from CIHR, he is undertaking a project with the 7 communities of the Okanagan Nation Alliance, assessing the impact on food quality, food security and health of a salmon rehabilitation project in the Okanagan water system.

Internationally, he is involved in several projects, including one in Haiti on the nutritional health of mothers and their young children with a major 4-year funding from Global Affairs Canada. With IDRC funding, he is participating in a project assessing the impact of front of package food labelling and a grass root campaign on responsible consumption on diet quality and risk factors for chronic disease in Ecuador. With funding from SSHRC, he is involved in a project assessing the correlates of food security among Syrian refugees in Canada and has published on the dietary acculturation and ensuing nutrition transition among migrants to Canada. Since September 2014, he has been director of TRANSNUT, a research group at the University of Montreal with interest in the nutrition transition and related health outcomes.

1:45 pm - 2:15 pm Socio-cultural Determinants of Food Security in the Countries of Resettlement & Reintegration
Speakers: Mustafa Koç, Ryerson University and Mahasti Khakpour,  MSc, PhD(c), University of Saskatchewan

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World wars are one of the main reasons for the influxes across the world. The United Nation Refugee Agency 2016-17 report shows displacement of more than 65.6 million people, 22.5 million of them registered as refugees. 55% of these refugees coming from three countries, Syria, Afghanistan, and south Sudan. Food, shelter, and health condition are among the initial needs to be addressed at the beginning of an influx. As the displacement and relocation situation enters a long-term phase, initial challenges of an influx, are different with this chronic phase. Our ongoing research on food insecurity of Afghan refugees in the host countries, revealed that a considerably high number of refugee households suffer from moderate to severe food insecurity .The question is how the socio-cultural determinants, and refugee resolution method, associate with food security among refugee families. Through a mixed method analysis, and collaboration with academic communities across different regions, we have tried to answer this question. Our current multi-regional research, has compared the status of food security of Afghan refugees in Pakistan (reintegration country) and Canada (Resettlement country). This session will walk you through our methodology, establishing the connections, data collection challenges, and a summary of findings.

About the speakers:

In 2003 Mahasti Khakpour left her native Iran and moved to Canada. She continued her graduate studies in Economics and accomplished her MSC in Bio resource policy, business and economics from University of Saskatchewan. Mahasti has worked for over eight years as the Executive Director of Saskatchewan Intercultural Association dedicated to providing services to immigrants and refugees. She has been involved in many board of directors and committees in the past ten years. She served as the vice president and treasurer of Saskatchewan Association of Immigrant Settlement and Integration Agencies for three consecutive terms. Mahasti believes in the important role of culture in health and well-being. Her areas of interest are food security, immigration health, nutrition and health economics, and nutrition and health policy. She is currently involved as a PhD candidate in a multi-national research project evaluating food security and its determinants among refugees.


Mustafa Koc is a professor of Sociology at Ryerson University. His research and teaching interests involve food studies, food security, food policy, and sociology of migration. Professor Koc was among the founders of the Centre for Studies in Food Security, Food Secure Canada, and the Canadian Association for Food Studies. His publications on sociology of agriculture and food, social change and development, and immigration, include For Hunger-proof Cities (1999), Working Together (2001), Interdisciplinary Perspectives in Food Studies (2008), Küresel Gıda Düzeni: Kriz Derinleşirken (2013) and Critical Perspectives in Food Studies (2012 and 2017). His current research focuses on culinary practices and food security and food safety concerns of immigrants and refugees. He has also been involved in various national and global debates on globalization, food security, and peace. Prof. Koc received the Provost’s Interdisciplinary Teaching Award ( 2014) and the Ryerson Faculty Association’s Career Achievement Award (2016), the Distinguished Lifetime Achievement award by the Canadian Association for Food Studies (2017) and Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration, Volunteer Service Award (2017).

2:15 pm - 2:50 pm Workshop#3
Syrian Refugees - Nutritional Health, Acting Local, National and International
Moderated by:  Hassan Vatanparast and Malek Batal 
3:10 pm - 3:40 pm Access to Nutritional Care by Newcomers to Canada
Speaker: Ginny Lane, PhD, RD - Senior Policy Advisor, Government of Saskatchewan

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With increasing rates of immigration to Canada, the changing demographics of recent arrivals to include more immigrants and refugees from non-Western countries, and their settlement in areas beyond large urban centres, concerns emerge regarding access to healthcare, including nutritional care that can contribute to short and long-term consequences, such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. These concerns are directly relevant to professional practice in nutrition and dietetics, as well as researchers. This session will focus on newcomers’ access to nutritional care, including health system navigation difficulties; language difficulties, interpretation issues, financial barriers, gender and cultural concerns, and lack of awareness of relevant programs; as well as an exploration of suggested approaches to mediate these concerns.

About the speaker:

Ginny is a registered dietitian and recently completed a Ph.D. focused on newcomer children’s health at the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition, University of Saskatchewan. Ginny has worked in a variety of community development and health system settings. She has previously worked as a community nutritionist/ outreach worker, and program consultant focused on cognitive disabilities and physician remuneration. She is currently the Strategic Seniors Initiatives Consultant at the Ministry of Health. Her research interests include sustainable development, food security, chronic diseases, and health promotion with a focus on children and vulnerable populations, particularly new Canadians.

3:40 pm - 4:10 pm Mother and Child Nutritional Health in Black Newcomer Families - A Community-based Initiative
Speaker: Rosanne Blanchet, PhD, RD, University of Alberta

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New Canadians face a disproportionately high risk of developing obesity or diet-related chronic diseases. Yet, very little research has examined the diet of their children even though they may be at greater risk of adopting a Westernized diet and experiencing the associated consequences. This presentation will discuss the nutritional health and social determinants of eating habits of Black immigrant mothers and children of Caribbean and African origin living in Ottawa.

About the speaker:

Dr. Rosanne Blanchet is a Registered Dietitian with a certificate in Public Health Nutrition from Université Laval and a PhD in Population Health from the University of Ottawa. Her research seeks to understand the determinants of eating habits and the social determinants of health of populations undergoing rapid cultural changes and/or vulnerable for health disparities (e.g., Indigenous peoples, immigrants, refugees, low-income households). Her doctoral research focused on the relationships between acculturation, ethnicity, and nutritional health of school-aged immigrant children of African and Caribbean descent living in Ottawa.

Dr. Blanchet is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Alberta with Dr. Noreen Willows. Her postdoctoral research aims to understand the outcomes of an Indigenous food sovereignty initiative that reintroduced sockeye salmon in the Okanagan Basin on Syilx culture, well-being, food security, and diet. Her objective is to eventually develop interventions aiming to help prevent chronic diseases and consequently reduce health inequities affecting immigrant and Indigenous populations in Canada.

4:10 pm - 4:45 pm Workshop #4  
Professional Dietetic Practice in Multicultural Settings
Moderated by:  Rosanne Blanchet, University of Alberta, Ginny Lane, University of Saskatchewan, and Marianne Lefebvre, Université de Montréal
4:45 pm - 5:00 pm Concluding Remarks - Hassan Vatanparast


The North American Refugee Health Conference (NARHC) is the largest refugee health conference of its kind globally, and offers access to recent research, best practices in refugee health, and a great opportunity for networking. The 2019 conference will be held in Toronto from June 14-16. To learn more, CLICK HERE 

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