The School of Journalism and Communication congratulates PhD candidate Stephanie Ritter, the inaugural recipient of the John Rainford Award in Health and Risk Communication.  

Ritter’s doctoral research examines the interplay between health news and policymaking in framing vaping as a public health risk. Vaping is the process of inhaling and exhaling a heated liquid solution, often containing nicotine or other chemicals, from an electronic cigarette. While many health experts argue that vaping is a safer alternative to cigarette smoking and can be an effective harm reduction and smoking cessation tool, others warn that it may also be a “gateway practice” that could lead non-smokers, particularly youth, to take up cigarette smoking, and may pose its own longer-term and as-yet unknown health risks. 

Ritter argues that, “despite lingering ambiguities about the health profile of vaping, alarmist news headlines have framed the vaping debate in Canada as an urgent regulatory priority demanding a robust health policy response.” The study will map what she describes as the “co-production of vaping knowledge” by a diverse group of policy actors, including those in public health, the vaping industry, advocacy groups, vape enthusiasts and health journalists. 

Professor Josh Greenberg, who is supervising Ritter’s dissertation, says the project provides a “timely intervention” into an important health policy debate. “While so much of our attention has been rightly focused on the COVID pandemic these past 2 years, we can’t take our eyes of other important public health issues and problems that will continue to challenge us for years to come,” he says. “Stephanie’s dissertation reminds us that there is far more going on in the public health landscape than just the threat of a global pandemic.” 

“I’m honoured to be the first recipient of the John Rainford Award and grateful for the support it will give me,” Ritter says. “These funds will allow me to present my work at academic and professional conferences and to build my research network.”  

Ritter plans to present her research at the International Crisis and Risk Communication Conference at the University of Central Florida, the annual conference of the Canadian Communication Association, and the 24th International Union for Health Promotion and Education, all scheduled in 2022.  


The John Rainford Fund was established by family, friends, and colleagues of John Rainford, in recognition of his commitment to global public health and passion for teaching the next generation of crisis and risk communicators. John led crisis and risk communication teams at Health Canada, The World Health Organization and Public Health Agency of Canada, before establishing his own consultancy, The Warning Project, through which he advised governments all over the world on issues in crisis, emergency, and risk communication. John also taught courses in this area in the Communication and Media Studies program for many years. He passed away suddenly in November 2019. 

Funds provided by this endowment are awarded to students annually on a competitive basis.  

Wednesday, November 24, 2021 in ,
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