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Faculty of Community Services
David Zakus, Professor of Distinction in Global Health, Ryerson

David Zakus


BSc, MES, MSc, PhD



Email Address:


  • Global health.
  • Health services management/health systems development.
  • Primary (health) care.
  • Environmental sustainability.


I was born in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, earned a BSc in biochemistry at the University of Saskatchewan (1975), a Master’s degree in Environmental Studies (MES) at York University, Toronto (1978), and an MSc (1987) and PhD (1992) in community health/health services management from the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto. I enjoy riding my bicycle, cross country skiing, reading, learning and travelling.

Since January, 2015, I have been a professor of distinction in global health in the Faculty of Community Services, School of Occupational and Public Health at Ryerson University. I work at the faculty level together with its nine professional schools, other faculties and student organizations to develop global health programming, including:

  • curriculum development and delivery

  • a post-graduate diploma

  • overseas electives for students

  • research programs

  • publication of the Planetary Health Weekly

My current research and development activities include:

  • Ethiopia (maternal, newborn and child health)

  • Niger (community health worker motivation, retention and mHealth)

  • Ghana (health promotion through arts)

  • Zambia (public health field school)

  • Kenya (NCD control and eHealth)

  • Uganda and Rwanda (radio programs for health promotion/family planning)

  • China (health system reform, primary care and aging)

  • Nepal (public health curriculum development)

  • Cambodia (NGO collaboration in HIV and alcohol control)

From July 2011 to January 2015, I was professor in the Division of Preventive Medicine, Department of Medicine, and director of global health in the Division of Community Engagement in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Alberta. Previous to this I worked briefly at the Canadian Public Health Association (2010-2011) and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) in Ottawa (2009-2010). From 2000-2009, I was the founding director of the Centre for International Health and associate professor in the Faculty of Medicine and Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto.

Prior to this I have held such positions as director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for International Nursing Development, director of global health at Mount Sinai Hospital (Toronto), IFI projects director at InterHealth Canada, president and CEO of Canadian Physicians for Aid and Relief (CPAR/NGO), assistant professor at McGill University and Addis Ababa University, lecturer at York University (Toronto), lab instructor at University of Saskatchewan, senior technical safety supervisor at Ontario Hydro, director of La Alegria Rural Development Project (Honduras), and a consultant for many years with many assignments in Latin America, Africa, Canada and elsewhere.

I have extensive knowledge and experience with academia, non-governmental organizations and multilateral institutions, having occupied senior roles within each. I have worked in some 40+ countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, sub-Saharan Africa, East and Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe and have traveled in some 60 other countries.

Research Interests:

Research interests:

  • primary (health) care

  • maternal, newborn and child health

  • community health development

  • health services management and human resource development

  • mobile and electronic health (mHealth and eHealth)

Research projects:

  • Community Health Workers and mHealth in Niger

  • MNCH in Ethiopia and Mozambique

  • Health Promotion using Radio in Rwanda

  • Health System Reform and Primary Care Development in China

Current Courses:

Teaching responsibilities:

  • ENH 617: Applied Ecology

  • ENH 809: Senior Seminars in Public Health

Teaching interests:

  • global health

  • health services management

  • environmental sustainability

  • global citizenship

Selected Publications:

Chapters (recent):

  • Zakus, David. “China-Canada Health Cooperation.” Chapter 5 in Moving Forward: 45 Years of Canada-China Relations (eds.: David Mulroney and Joseph Wong).  (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, Asian Institute at the University of Toronto and China Open Research Network, 2016).

  • Zakus, David, Bhattacharyya, Onil and Wei Xiaolin. “Health Systems, Management and Organization in Global Health” Chapter 20 in Understanding Global Health, 2nd Edition (eds.: William Markle, M. Fisher, R. Smego).  (McGraw Hill Medical, 2014).

  • Zakus, David. “International Perspective on Healthy Ageing: Canada Highlighted.” In Healthy Ageing: Challenges and Opportunities in China, (eds.: Zhang Kaining, Quyao Deng and Jiju Tong). (Beijing: China Social Sciences Press, 2014) pp. 416-429 in Chinese and pp. 430-59 in English (including question and answer session).

Journal articles (a few most recent and doctoral thesis work):

  • Zakus, David, Global Health Today (editorial) as part of Co-editing a Special Issue on Global Health of the journal Family Medicine and Community Health, January 2016.

  • Frishkopf, Michael, Hasan Hamze and David Zakus, Performing Arts as a Social Technology for Community Health Promotion in Northern Ghana.  Family Medicine and Community Health, January, 2016.

  • Muluneh Yigzaw, David Zakus, Yehualashet Tadesse and Muluked Desalegn and Mesganaw Fantahun, Paving the way for universal family planning coverage in Ethiopia: an analysis of wealth related inequality. International Journal for Equity in Health, 2015, 14:77.

  • Mirella Veras, Nicole Paquet, Eliany N. Oliviera, David Zakus, Raywat Deonandan and Kevin Pottie, “Unregulated healthcare workers in the care of aging populations: Similarities and differences between Brazil and Canada.”  Family Medicine and Community Health. (Published online June 2, 2015:; and hardcopy January 2016).

  • Zakus, David, "Resource Dependency and Community Participation in Primary Health Care."  Social Science and Medicine, Vol. 46(4-5), 1998: 475-494.

  • Zakus, David and Cathy Lysack, "Revisiting Community Participation."  Health Policy and Planning, Vol.13 (1), 1998: 1-12.

Professional Affiliations:

  • Special Honorary Service Award, Ethiopian Public Health Association, February, 2014.

  • Recognition Award for Service to the Ethiopia Journal of Health Development, February, 2014.

  • Award for Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health, Ethiopia: $6.1million, Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (Canadian International Development Agency), Partnership Branch, together with Canadian coalition, Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Health, St. Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College and Ethiopian Midwives Association, 2013-2018.

  • International Consultant, Yunnan Health and Development Research Association, July, 2013.

  • Foreign Expert, Pudong Institute of Health Development, Shanghai, China,January 29, 2013.

  • Alumni of Influence Award, College of Arts and Science, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, November 19, 2010.

  • International Programs Committee Award in recognition of contributions to supporting global health in family medicine, Department of Family and Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, June 20, 2009.

  • Visiting Professor, Department of Public Health and Family Medicine, Capital Medical University, Beijing, China, 2008 and on-going.

  • Honorary Professor, Kunming Medical College, Kunming, Yunnan, China, 2004 and on-going.

  • Honorary PhD supervisor, Fudan University, Shanghai, China, 2008-2009.

  • Honorary member of Alpha Omega Alpha Honour Medical Society, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, 2003 and on-going.

  • Dr. Ted Goldberg Scholarship Fund Award for most promising PhD student, Department of Health Administration, University of Toronto, 1989.

  • Young Canadian Researchers Award, International Development Research Centre, Ottawa 1987-1988.

  • International Health Exchange Award, Canadian Public Health Association/Canadian Society for Tropical Medicine and International Health, 1986.

  • Graduate Student Research Award, Canadian Association for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, 1986.

Selected Publications & Presentations:

Position Currently Held:

Professor of Distinction in Global Health

Creative activity
Awards and honours

Contact details

Office details

  • POD-247H, Podium building
  • Appointment preference: email to make an appointment

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