Professor John Cairney

Head of School

School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences
Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences
+61 7 336 56241


Professor John Cairney is the Head of School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences. He is an academic leader in the field of paediatric exercise medicine and child health research and is particularly well-known for his work on developmental coordination disorder (DCD) and its impact on the health and well-being of children. Prof John Cairney started at UQ in January 2020.

Until the end of 2019, he was the Director of Graduate Studies in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education at the University of Toronto and Director of the Infant and Child Health (INCH) Research Laboratory at both the University of Toronto and McMaster University. He is also an Adjunct Professor in the Departments of Public Health Sciences and Psychiatry at the University of Toronto and Department of Family Medicine at McMaster University and a core scientist with the Offord Centre for Child Studies, CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research at McMaster University, and the independent Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences.

Professor Cairney completed his PhD studies at the University of Western Ontario and has held academic appointments at Brock University, the University of Toronto and McMaster University before his current UQ role. He has held, among other research leadership positions, a Canada Research Chair in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto, and a Professorship in Child Health, and subsequently a Research Chair, in the Department of Family Medicine at McMaster University.

Professor Cairney has been the recipient of ~$A17 million in research grants as a principal investigator and has some 310 published works with a Scopus h index of 51 (Aug 2022).

Professor Cairney is a former President of the North American Society of Pediatric Exercise Medicine.

Research Interests

  • Physical activity and health
    Professor Cairney's broad interest is in the association between physical activity and health (physical and mental), with a specific interest in the role that physical activity plays in the health and quality of life of children with chronic disease.

Research Impacts

From 2012-2015, Professor John Cairney co-led the evaluation of the multi-ministerial Children’s Mental Health Strategy in Canada, and since 2013 he has been the Scientific Lead of the screening arm of the Special Needs Strategy for Children in Ontario. These roles have allowed him to influence policy development in Ontario.


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