Professor, CIHR-PHAC Chair in Applied Public Health Research

Scott LeatherdaleContact infor​mation

Office: BMH 1618E

Phone: 519-888-4567, ext. 37812


Website: Compass System

Research interests

My work focuses on advancing a systems science approach to primary prevention activities, developing and evaluating population-level health interventions across multiple risk factor domains, and creating research infrastructure to facilitate large population studies in chronic disease prevention. My work is purposefully designed to actively engage numerous stakeholders at multiple-levels (regional, provincial, national), and is designed to have an impact on improving the health of large segments of the Canadian population. The core foundation project for my current program of research is the COMPASS study; the world’s largest and most comprehensive longitudinal school-based primary prevention project. Each year, COMPASS collects longitudinal data from around 45,000 grade 9 to 12 students attending 89 secondary schools in Ontario and Alberta. The purpose is to evaluate how ongoing real-world changes in programs, policies, or built environment resources within or surrounding schools are related to changes in youth risk factors [tobacco use (including e-cigarettes), obesity, poor diet, physical inactivity, screen time, alcohol use, marijuana use, bullying] over time. Every year, more than 100 different changes take place that our large team of researchers and trainees are currently evaluating. Our team then takes this new evidence of what programs or policies work and we feed that information back to each participating school annually with customized tools to inform them of the best prevention interventions specific to their school population.

Graduate supervision and student opportunities

I am currently accepting applications from graduate students with related research interests:

  • Evaluating the impact of school-based programs/policies on substance use behaviour (tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, e-cigarettes) or obesity and correlates of obesity (physical activity, sedentary behaviour, diet).
  • Evaluating the impact of provincial/national programs/policies on substance use behaviour (tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, e-cigarettes) or obesity and correlates of obesity (physical activity, diet).
  • Modifiable chronic disease related risk factor co-occurrence.  

Graduate studies application details 

PhD Public Health and Health Systems candidate Amanda Doggett is supervised by Professor Leatherdale. Watch Amanda as she collects health behaviour data and shares what life looks like as a doctoral student in the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences. She is one of many grad students and staff who travel to high schools participating in the COMPASS study to perform data collections. For her research, Amanda spends her days using statistics on the COMPASS study data to explore different health behaviours. Her particular research interests are in substance use and obesity in youth, and works with many partners including the federal government. She aims to contribute to informing policy/program changes to make a positive impact on youth health and wellbeing.

Awards and recognitions

  • CIHR-IPPH Trailblazer Award in Population Health Solutions, Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)

  • Chair, Applied Public Health Research, Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Public Health Agency of Canada

  • Ontario Public Health Association (OPHA) Community Partner Award

  • Canadian Cancer Society's Top Research Achievement Award

  • Cancer Care Ontario Level-2 Research Chair

  • American Society of Preventive Oncology (ASPO) New Investigator Award


BPHE. Health Promotion (1998, Laurentian University)

MA Human Development (2000, Laurentian University)

PhD Health Behaviour (2004, University of Waterloo)

Selected publications

  • Ryan, C,J., Cooke, M.J., Leatherdale, S.T. Factors associated with heavy drinking among First Nations and Métis youth and adults: evidence from the 2012 Canadian Aboriginal Peoples Survey. Preventive Medicine. 2016,87,95-102.

  • Leatherdale, S.T. Commentary on Lipperman-Kreda et al. (2015): Robust methods with a weak outcome measure still lead to consistent conclusions – even so, it may be time for recommendations to move from traditional tobacco control strategies to a relevant endgame strategy. Addiction. 2016,111,533-534.

  • Cunningham, J.A., Kushnir, V., Selby, P., Tyndale, R.F., Zawertailo, L., Leatherdale, S.T. Mailing nicotine patches to promote tobacco cessation among adult smokers in the general population: Primary outcomes from a Randomized Controlled Trial. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2016,176,184-190.

  • Jones, A.C., Hammond, D., Reid, J.L, Leatherdale, S.T. Where should we eat? Lunch source and dietary measures among youth during the school week. Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research. 2015,76,157-165.

  • Godin, K., Stapleton, J., Kirkpatrick, S.I., Hanning, R.M., Leatherdale, S.T. Applying systematic review search methods to the grey literature: A case study examining guidelines for school-based breakfast programs in Canada. Systematic Reviews. 2015,4,138. doi: 10.1186/s13643-015-0125-0

  • Elton-Marshall, T., Leatherdale, S.T., Driezen, P., Azagba, S., Burkhalter, R. Do provincial policies banning smoking in cars when children are present impact youth exposure to secondhand smoke in cars? Preventive Medicine. 2015,17,59-64.

  • Czoli, C., Hammond, D., Reid, J.L., Cole, A.G., Leatherdale, S.T. Use of conventional and alternative tobacco and nicotine products among a sample of Canadian youth. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2015,57,123-125.

  • Carson, V., Faulkner, G., Sabiston, C., Tremblay, M.S., Leatherdale, S.T. Patterns of movement behaviors and their association with overweight and obesity in youth. International Journal of Public Health. 2015,60,551-559.

  • Godin, K., Leatherdale, S.T., Elton-Marshall, T. A systematic review of the effectiveness of school-based obesity prevention programs for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis youth in Canada. Clinical Obesity Reviews. 2015,5,103-115.

  • Leatherdale, S.T., Cole, A.G. Examining the impact of changes in school tobacco control policies and programs on current smoking and susceptibility to future smoking among youth in the first two waves of the COMPASS study: looking back to move forward. Tobacco Induced Diseases. 2015,13,8.

  • Leatherdale, S.T. An examination of the co-occurrence of modifiable risk factors associated with chronic disease among youth in the COMPASS study. Cancer Causes & Control. 2015,26:519-528.

  • Leatherdale, S.T., Brown, K.S., Carson, V., et al. The COMPASS study: a longitudinal hierarchical research platform for evaluating natural experiments related to changes in school-level programs, policies and built environment resources. BMC Public Health. 2014,14,331. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-331

  • Leatherdale, S.T., Bredin, C., Blashill, J. A software application for use in handheld devices to collect school built environment data. Measurement. 2014,50,331-338.

  • LeBlanc, A.G., Chaput J.P., McFarlane A., Colley R.C., Thivel D., Biddle S.J., Maddison R., Baranowski T., Leatherdale S.T., Tremblay M.S. Active video games and health indicators in children and youth: a systematic review of the literature. PLoS ONE, 2013, 8(6): e65351. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0065351

  • Stamatakis, K.A., Leatherdale, S.T., Marx, C., Yan, Y., Colditz, G.A., Brownson, R.C.  Is obesity prevention on the map? Distribution and predictors of Local Health Department prevention activities in the US. Journal of Public Health Management & Practice, 2012, 18, 402-411.

Selected professional activities and networks

  • Advisory Member, Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) – Canada, World Health Organization

  • Adjunct Scientist, Public Health Ontario (PHO)

  • Advisor, Cancer Care Ontario’s First Nations, Inuit and Métis (FNIM) Chronic Diseases Prevention Blueprint. Cancer Care Ontario (CCO)

  • Prevention System Quality Index (PSQI) Advisory Committee, Cancer Care Ontario (CCO).

  • Advisory Board Member and Scientific Lead, Healthy Schools Accreditation Program (Ontario), OPHEA (Healthy Schools, Healthy Communities) and the Province of Ontario.

University of Waterloo