Keynote Speakers

Dr. Zwicker is Director of Health Policy at the School of Public Policy, associate professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary, Canada Research Chair (II) in Disability Policy for Children and Youth and Deputy Scientific Officer for Kids Brain Health Network. Her research program assesses interventions and informs policy around allocation of funding, services, and supports for youth with disabilities and their families. Strong stakeholder and government collaboration has been critical in the translation of peer-reviewed publications to policy papers, op-eds and briefing notes for provincial and federal ministries and senate committees. Her work recently informed the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences National Autism Strategy Working Group and Royal Society of Canada Expert Working Group to develop disability inclusive policy during the COVID-19 pandemic. She has been recognized for her policy leadership as an Action Canada Alumni, Governor General Leadership Forum, and Canada’s Top 40 Under 40. 

Policy matters: Practical approaches for evidence informed policy development

Jennifer Zwicker

School of Public Policy, University of Calgary


Fragmentation of service delivery and a ‘patchwork’ of policy across jurisdictions is a reality for persons with developmental disabilities and their families.  This negatively impacts health outcomes, family functioning and quality of life, and often leads to inappropriate and inefficient healthcare utilization. Research-derived evidence is a key feature of most evidence-based policy development. Both quantitative and qualitative data can be used by decision makers to determine the appropriate policy intervention.

Communication of research findings to decision makers and stakeholders is critical in policy development. In 1998 In Unison: A Canadian Approach to Disability Issues report, ministers agreed that “More effective and coordinated programs would better serve Canadians with disabilities and the country as a whole.” That this statement holds as true today – two decades later – demonstrating the need for effective action to follow this intergovernmental vision. This session will discuss the role of researchers, families and community partners in health and social policy development and some examples of practical approaches for how research can inform policy and practice.  

Dr. Melissa Licari is a research fellow in the Disability Team at Telethon Kids Institute in Perth, Western Australia. She is currently leading a program of research investigating the clinical presentation and intervention for movement-related difficulties in children with neurodevelopmental conditions. She sits on the board for Developmental Coordination Disorder Australia (DCD) Incorporated, Australia’s peak advocacy group for DCD, and is the Australian representative on the working board for the International Society for Research and Advocacy into DCD. She is co-leading a national advocacy project (the Impact for DCD Initiative) identifying the challenges individuals and their families are currently experiencing (through the Impact for DCD Survey) and working with families and other key stakeholders to improve the awareness, identification, and support of DCD. The project has recently expanded to other countries, including Canada, the United States and United Kingdom, becoming part of international advocacy efforts.