Date of Conferral



Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)


Public Health


Shanna Barnett


Education is one of the strongest predictors of health, and well-being. Early termination of education can lead to poorer health, shorter lifespans, and increased stress on the healthcare system. Improving overall high school graduation rates has been debated and discussed by the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and the Ministry of Education, however, there is a paucity of research on increased graduation rates as they relate to public health in the Canadian context. The purpose of this phenomenological qualitative study was to explore the perceptions of liaison public health nurses (PHNs) who worked directly with the TDSB regarding their roles in terms of influencing students in Toronto, Ontario to complete high school. Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model was the underlying conceptual framework for the study.Purposive sampling was used to select 10 PHNs who were interviewed regarding their role and involvement in high schools. The data was subjected to triangulation and analyzed to identify commonalities, trends and patterns. Findings from this study indicated that liaison PHNs believe that high school dropout rates are a public health issue and collaboration between the Ministry of Education and Public Health is needed to take action. Recommendations include more Canadian research that explores connections between health and school achievements and the expanded role of PHNs in Canadian high schools. Social change implications for this research include highlighting high school dropout rates as a public health concern in Canadian schools, particularly in communities of lower socioeconomic status. With increased research and resources, the Toronto public health system may work toward making improving graduation rates among their core mandate.