Students in the Spotlight: Michelle Amri

June 20, 2021 by School of Cities Staff

"Students in the Spotlight" is a conversation series with members of the SofC Urban Leadership Fellowship and Academy program

Michelle Amri's headshot

  • What are your research and engagement interests?

My research is situated in the disciplines of public health and global health and contributes to the emerging field of health political science/politics of health (de Leeuw, Clavier, & Breton, 2014). Because health is profoundly political, my work contributes to defining the practice, policy, and theory of the field. I aim to bridge my formalized education in health promotion, public policy, public health, and global health with my experience in these domains. I also have a particular interest in cities due to the unequal distribution of the world’s urban population and because rapid urbanization is linked to health.

  • What has motivated your interests and journey? How do you hope to make a difference?

    Ultimately, my interest in public health lies in the idea that health is more than “absence of disease or infirmity”: it is about one’s capabilities and opportunities to live a long, healthy, and enjoyable life. Further, I strongly believe that bettering one’s surroundings (i.e., their social determinants of health) has the greatest positive impact on health, and I have accordingly dedicated my pursuits to this end. Rather than contributing our collective resources to health issues in a reactive way, proactively addressing the root causes of issues and tackling ill health through public policy changes to bring about improvements is particularly attractive to me. As such, my interest in and aspiration to better population health and well-being is aligned with the aim of reducing health inequities.

  • What’s the latest project you have been working on that you would like to share with the SofC audiences?

    I am investigating the concept of equity as conceptualized and operationalized by the World Health Organization (WHO). Through a previous study (Amri et al., 2021), myself and colleagues determined that the WHO has held — and continues to hold — ambiguous, inadequate, and contradictory views of equity that are rooted in different theories of social justice. It is for this reason that I am looking into an initiative of the WHO that is focused on assessing and responding to inequity in cities, called the Urban Health Equity Assessment and Response Tool (Urban HEART), to better understand the WHO’s approach to equity. I have conducted interviews with WHO Technical Officers and member state civil servants involved in Urban HEART to get a better understanding of how equity is understood and operationalized, and I am looking forward to sharing insights from this investigation with the School of Cities community!

  • As a student, researcher and or activist, what have you learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and its global impact? How do you envision post-pandemic recovery? What do you hope for?

    As a practitioner-scholar whose work largely centres around public policy, I have gleaned numerous lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of these takeaways are that: (i) preexisting policy problems exacerbate the cost of crises and make policy responses more difficult; (ii) policymakers and bureaucrats are capable of moving nimbly when seized with necessity; and (iii) for those seeking policy change, it is imperative to engage early and gain public support and acceptance (and the media may aid in this pursuit) (Amri & Drummond, 2021). I also believe that the policy responses to COVID-19 present a window of opportunity for a paradigm shift in global health policy. More specifically, I am hoping that governments will draw on this pivotal moment to move towards better addressing the social determinants of health and improving health equity (Amri & Logan, 2021).

  • Please share with us your experiences at the SofC. How do you think being a member of the SofC Urban Leadership Fellowship and Academy Program has contributed to your scholarship and added to your experience as a student?

    Being a part of the School of Cities Urban Leadership Fellowship Program has been a fantastic opportunity to meet like-minded students and discuss various urban and city topics. I believe in the need for multisectoral thinking and policy action and this program is a great way to gain exposure to other disciplines, schools of thought, and approaches to research. I suspect my engagement in this program will not be over with the final symposium, but rather, that this network and friendships will be sustained in the long term.

  •  Any final words or message?

    I am tremendously grateful for the School of Cities’ support of my scholarship and the opportunity to be immersed in such a community.

    To learn more about Michelle Amri’s work, see her publications below:

    Michelle M. Amri (2020) Rethinking the role of global actors in empowering cities of the global south, Cities & Health, 4:1, 31-33, DOI: 10.1080/23748834.2019.1594502

    de Leeuw, E., Clavier, C. & Breton, E. Health policy – why research it and how: health political science. Health Res Policy Sys 12, 55 (2014).

    Michelle M. Amri & Don Drummond (2021) Punctuating the equilibrium: an application of policy theory to COVID-19, Policy Design and Practice, 4:1, 33-43,DOI: 10.1080/25741292.2020.1841397

    Michelle M. Amri & Dilani Logan (2021) Policy responses to COVID-19 present a window of opportunity for a paradigm shift in global health policy: An application of the Multiple Streams Framework as a heuristic, Global Public Health, DOI: 10.1080/17441692.2021.1925942

    Amri, M.M., Jessiman-Perreault, G., Siddiqi, A. et al. Scoping review of the World Health Organization’s underlying equity discourses: apparent ambiguities, inadequacy, and contradictions. Int J Equity Health 20, 70 (2021).

Student Bio:

Michelle Amri is a PhD candidate at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. Her research investigates the World Health Organization (WHO)’s approach to equity and translation to policy and practice through investigating Urban HEART (which aims to improve health equity in cities). She has consulted for the WHO on numerous occasions, and is also a dedicated and passionate educator, having taught courses at the University of Toronto (St. George and Scarborough) and University of Victoria. She is also an associate with the Takemi Program in International Health at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.