Dr. Cath Conn

Headshot of Dr. Cath Conn

Dr. Cath Conn, an interdisciplinary social scientist, has dedicated her career to transforming communities and advocating for the health and well-being of marginalised populations worldwide. With a background spanning continents and cultures, Cath has spearheaded research, advanced youth empowerment initiatives, and contributed to the decolonisation of health programs. Her commitment to public health, sustainability, and fostering youth voices has left an indelible mark on the field.

Cath graduated from LSTM in 1987 when she completed her Master of Community Health (now known as MPH) and is currently the Co-Director of the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) Child and Youth Health Research Centre, here she continues to inspire and shape the future of public health.

As Co-Editor of Pacific Health, an interdisciplinary journal of the Asia Pacific Rim, Cath empowers scholars and practitioners to bridge gaps in knowledge and drive transformative change. Her expertise extends to critical policy and systems analysis, program management, and participatory action research, employing a range of methodologies including indigenous, visual, and narrative methods.

Throughout her career, Cath has been a catalyst for change, amplifying the voices of vulnerable and indigenous youth communities. Her research in HIV, sexual and reproductive health, and sex education has paved the way for innovative solutions in these critical areas. She has authored numerous policy reports and peer-reviewed journal articles, providing evidence-based insights to inform decision-makers and drive systemic change.

Cath's commitment to sustainable and healthy food systems has been instrumental in fostering the health and well-being of communities across the Pacific. Her collaboration with Dr. Radilaite Cammock in exploring the relationship between Fijian youth entrepreneurs and healthy eating in the context of sustainable food systems stands as a testament to her leadership.

More of Dr. Conns projects include:

  • Co-Investigator, 2021-22, Food Havens in South Auckland, funded by Health Research Council (HRC) New Zealand; working with Māori and Pacific communities to reduce NCDs.
  • Colgate-funded programme evaluation study with Daniel Fernandez, AUT oral health lecturer and Fruit of the Pacific, a New Zealand NGO. This study focused on the perspectives of seasonal workers from Vanuatu who led in disseminating oral health education to remote rural communities with little access to dental services.

Her early experiences included coordinating emergency feeding programmes during the Ugandan Civil War in the 1980s and spearheading water and sanitation projects for communities affected by the Eritrean War of Independence. In her role as the first woman Country Director for Save the Children Fund, Cath championed the strengthening of district health systems, improving the lives of underserved rural communities.

From her consultancy work in Vietnam and Laos, supporting decentralised health systems, to her partnership with McDonald Nyalapa at Kamuzu University of Health Sciences (KUHeS) in Malawi, exploring decolonisation and democratisation of public health, her commitment to driving positive change knows no bounds.

Reflecting on her time at LSTM, Cath highlights the invaluable experiences she gained from interacting with international students from diverse backgrounds. Immersed in a melting pot of knowledge and cultures, she developed a broader perspective on health and development, transcending her previous African-focused experiences. The guidance of eminent lecturers and the opportunity to conduct her thesis project in Nepal further enriched her skills and broadened her horizons.

She encourages prospective students to be strategic in their choices and actions, urging them to select future-focused areas of health specialisation, such as planetary health, sustainability, and health technology. Cath emphasises the importance of staying abreast of rapidly evolving trends and embracing opportunities for growth.

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