Jennifer McWhirter

Associate Professor   |   Hons. B.Sc., Ph.D. (University of Waterloo)


Jennifer McWhirter is a scientist, health communication expert, and Associate Professor of Public Health Promotion and Communication in the Department of Population Medicine at the University of Guelph.

Research Interests

Dr. McWhirter's research focuses on the promotion of health and prevention of disease through effective communication, education, and policy. She is especially interested in the way the mass media disseminates health information and how visual images influence people's health knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours. Dr. McWhirter's research has been funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). She and her work have been acknowledged in awards from the American Association for Cancer Education, the Canadian Federation of University Women, the Sheela Basrur Centre, and Health Promotion Canada (Rising Star Award). 


Research Areas

  • Skin cancer and UV exposure
  • Cancer prevention
  • Health communication
  • Visual communication
  • Health misinformation
  • Mass media and public health
  • Aesthetics, design, and health
  • Health policy


Prospective graduate students should contact me early to discuss how their research interests align with mine. If you are interested in working with me, please reach out via email, and include an unofficial transcript, resume/CV, whether or not you already have funding, and a description of your reserach interests. 


Dr. McWhirter's teaching interests, and competencies, are in public health.
She currently teaches two graduate-level courses:

Health Communication (POPM*6530)
Health Promotion (POPM*6510)

Service to Society

Ontario Sun Safety Working Group (Co-Chair)

Journal of Cancer Education (Editorial Board)

Selected Publications

(*denotes student I've supervised)

*Reimann J, McWhirter JE, Papadopoulos A, Bergeron K, Flynn S, Marrett L, Tenkate T, Rosen CF, Dewey C. (2019). A process evaluation of the Skin Cancer Prevention Act (Tanning Beds): A Survey of Ontario Public Health Units. Journal of Community Health. doi: 10.1007/s10900-019-00658-1

*Reimann J, McWhirter JE, *Cimino A, Papadopoulos A, Dewey C (2019). Impact of Legislation on Youth Indoor Tanning Behaviour: A Systematic Review. Preventive Medicine. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2019.03.041

*Gosselin S & McWhirter JE (2019). Assessing the content and comprehensiveness of provincial and territorial indoor tanning legislation in Canada. Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention in Canada. doi: 10.24095/hpcdp.39.2.02

*Sypes EE & McWhirter JE (2019). Content analysis of Health Warning Labels for indoor tanning in the United States. American Journal of Health Education. doi: 10.1080/19325037.2019.1571965

McWhirter JE, *Byl S, *Green A, Sears A & Papadopoulos A (2018). Availability of tanning salons in Ontario relative to indoor tanning policy (2001-2017). Preventive Medicine Reports. doi: 10.1016/j.pmedr.2018.08.010

*Reimann J, McWhirter JE, Papadopoulos A, Dewey C (2018). A systematic review of compliance with indoor tanning legislation. BMC Public Health. doi: 10.1186/s12889-018-5994-4

Nadalin V, Marrett LD, Cawley C, Atkinson J, Tenkate T, McWhirter JE, Rosen CF (2018). Assessing a ban on the use of UV tanning devices among adolescents in Ontario, Canada: first-year results. Canadian Journal of Public Health. doi: 10.17269/s41997-018-0129-3 

*Magwood O, Kpade V, Afza R, Oraka C, McWhirter JE, Oliver S, Pottie K (2018). Understanding women's, caregivers', and providers' experiences with home-based records: A systematic review of qualitative studies. PLoS One. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0204966

McWhirter JE & Hoffman-Goetz L (2016). Coverage of skin cancer risk factors and UV behaviors in popular U.S. magazines from 2000-2012. Journal of Cancer Education. doi: 10.1007/s13187-015-0808-1

McWhirter JE & Hoffman-Goetz L (2015). Skin Deep: Coverage of skin cancer and recreational tanning in popular Canadian women’s magazines (2000-2012). Canadian Journal of Public Health, 106, e236-e243. doi: 10.17269/cjph.106.4795

McWhirter JE & Hoffman-Goetz L (2015). Skin cancer early detection information in popular U.S. magazines (2000-2012). Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 72, 1081-1082. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2015.02.001

McWhirter JE & Hoffman-Goetz L (2015). Systematic review of population-based studies on the impact of images on UV attitudes and behaviours. Health Promotion International, 30, 397-410. doi: 10.1093/heapro/dat031

McWhirter JE & Hoffman-Goetz L (2014). A systematic review of visual image theory, assessment, and use in skin cancer and tanning research. Journal of Health Communication, 19, 738-757. doi: 10.1080/10810730.2013.837562

McWhirter JE & Hoffman-Goetz L (2013). Visual images for patient skin self-examination and melanoma detection: A systematic review of published studies. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 69, 47-55. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2013.01.031

McWhirter JE, Todd L, & Hoffman-Goetz L (2011). Comparing written and oral measures of comprehension of cancer information by English-as-Second-Language Chinese immigrant women. Journal of Cancer Education, 26, 484-489. doi: 10.1007/s13187-011-0219-x

Cooke M & McWhirter JE (2011). Public policy and aboriginal peoples in Canada: taking a life-course perspective. Canadian Public Policy, 17, S15-S31. 

A full list of Dr. McWhirter's publications can be found here