Spotlight: Philippa Clarke

philippa clarkeDr. Philippa Clarke has been a researcher and faculty member at the University of Michigan, Department of Epidemiology since 2005. She is also a faculty member at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health’s Center for Social Epidemiology and Population Health. Dr. Clarke received her Ph.D. in Public Health from the University of Toronto in 2000, following a postdoc at Duke University. Her research interests include the effect of the built environment on mobility disability, cognitive function, and social participation; the effect of the urban environment on disability trajectories over time; the health and social factors influencing the use of assistive devices in later life; and cross-national disparities in disability and psychosocial resources. 

Dr. Clark is passionate about the challenging and often invisible nature of the barriers faced by those living with disabilities, “From city streets to healthcare policies, our world is designed without them in mind,” she said. Global aging, increased longevity for individuals with disabilities and advances in medical care and technology have contributed to an increasing number of individuals living into older age with Spinal Cord Injury (SCI), and the average age of people living with early-acquired SCI is increasing. As the number of adults aging with SCI grows, understanding those factors that contribute to healthy and positive aging is becoming an increasingly important area of research.

Currently, Dr. Clarke is working on a "Socio-Environmental Factors Associated with Healthy Aging after Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)" study, which is designed to understand how the environment people live in and the surrounding neighborhoods affect the health of people aging with SCI in Michigan. The study will use a cross-sectional design with a mixed-methods approach, integrating quantitative survey data, qualitative interviews with Photovoice, and environmental data. It will be conducted in three interrelated stages. Briefly, (1) a standardized survey instrument will be administered to 200 adults aging with SCI, generating quantitative data for analysis; (2) the quantitative data will be supplemented with qualitative interviews with Photovoice with a subsample of 30 participants in order to better understand the underlying reasons why and how personal and environmental factors influence healthy aging; and (3) these person-level data will be augmented with secondary environmental data including Google Street View audits to characterize the socio-environmental conditions in participants’ local communities. Study participants will be recruited from three different areas in the state of Michigan: Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, and Detroit, which together cover an important spectrum with respect to the socio-environmental conditions that can influence successful aging with SCI.

For questions about her courses or research, contact Dr. Clark at