Spencer Moore appointed professor and chairholder Health & Society at WUR

The Executive Board of Wageningen University & Research (WUR) has Spencer Moore appointed as a Professor and Chair of the Health & Society Group. He succeeds Prof. Maria Koelen, who retired last year. The appointment is effective as per 1 January.

DS (Spencer) Moore studied Public Health at the University of North Carolina and received his PhD in Anthropology from the University of Virginia in 2000. He was awarded a Canadian Institutes of Health Research New Investigator Award from 2007-2012 and an Ontario Early Research Award from 2008-2012. From 2007-2014, he was Assistant and Associate Professor in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen’s University, Canada. Spencer Moore is also Affiliated Adjunct Professor in the Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior at the Arnold School of Public Health, the University of South Carolina and an Academic Affiliate in the McGill Centre for Convergence of Health and Economics at McGill University in Canada.

Spencer Moore (credits: Guy Ackermans)
Spencer Moore (credits: Guy Ackermans)

Social networks buffering stress and ageing

Spencer Moore’s research lies in the field of social epidemiology, population health, and evaluation and implementation research. In the field of social epidemiology and population health, his work examines the social determinants of health, with a particular focus on the effect that social relationships and social networks have on health and health behaviours. In this area, Spencer has led multiple studies, including the Montreal Neighborhood Networks and Healthy Aging Panel, that examine the influence of social capital and social environments on the health of adults. His research has been published in various journals, including the American Journal of Public Health, Health & Place, International Journal of Epidemiology, and Social Science and Medicine. More recently in this area, Prof. Moore has begun to focus on the importance of social networks, such as social isolation and social capital, over the life course and the role that such networks can play in buffering the harmful effects of chronic stress on health and ageing.

Prof. Spencer Moore also applies social network analysis in implementing and evaluating health promotion programmes: “Behaviour change interventions take place in specific social contexts, such as schools, neighbourhoods and communities. And these contexts can shape intervention outcomes in different ways”, he explains. According to Moore, network analysis and social science approaches provide important tools, theories, and methods for characterising and leveraging those social contexts so that interventions are more impactful, equitable, and sustainable. Recently, he has used such tools to study the role that farmers’ social networks play in an intervention designed to increase the vegetable consumption of rural Indian farmers.

“Tomorrow’s health requires addressing today’s social challenges”

As the Chair of the Health & Society Group at Wageningen University & Research, Prof. Moore looks forward to supporting and promoting the ‘terrific teaching and research’ of the Health & Society Group. In the coming years, he also looks forward to reaching out to other groups and researchers at WUR interested in using a social sciences lens to study the effects of governance, climate change, the food environment, and other social factors on health. The COVID-19 pandemic has not only reminded us of the precariousness of human health, he says, but it has also highlighted how health and wellbeing are embedded in broader social and political systems. “Addressing tomorrow’s health challenges requires tackling today’s social challenges. The team of the Health & Society Group aims to train its students and researchers in the social theories and methods that will allow them to address at scale the health challenges facing the world.”

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