What does the University of Waterloo and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta have in common? Well-respected international reputations and Dr. Judy Kruger.
Kruger is currently a senior scientist for the Research Team in the Epidemiology Branch of the Office on Smoking and Health. She engages in research that raises awareness about the diseases caused by tobacco use, and helps prevent initiation and promote cessation in youth and adults.
“Getting people to do less of something as opposed to more is a different approach to promoting behaviour change,” Kruger explains. And this is made more challenging by the addictive nature of smoking behaviour, and the changing tobacco products being sold. Kruger and her colleagues are up against the billions spent annually and the creativeness of the tobacco industry to reach new customers. These conditions add to the demands of researchers to think outside of the box when planning ways to gain accurate measures of prevalence and to observe behaviour. For example, “attending a Friday night drag race at the Atlanta Motor Speedway is a great way to observe tobacco manufacturers’ promotion of new products since advertising in some of these venues is not banned.”
Kruger’s “fascination with the lifestyle behaviours people choose to engage in” was fueled by her experience in the Health Studies and Gerontology program. While a student, she was exposed to valuable opportunities, such as gaining research experience working for what is now the Propel Centre for Population Health Impact, and learning about international internship opportunities with the World Health Organization. Kruger’s undergraduate experience was her “window into the colossal and wonderful world of international health.”
Today, Kruger is energized by legislative changes and the dedication of the researchers she collaborates with. Tobacco use is one of the leading preventable causes of death worldwide, making her work timely and poised to have an impact.