Written by Teryn Pannette, Lauryn Ormrod, Madeline Heim and Savannah Wilkinson
Day 2 at the conference involved many panels, honorable public health professionals, and words from wise keynote speakers. We got to experience listening to what professional public health workers face every day and how they handle their daily work.
The day started with a congressional roundtable. This roundtable was full of 5 congressional and star officials ranging from US House of Representatives to district representatives. The purpose of the roundtable was to explain how the government (state and federal level) plays a role in reducing the health disparities that everyone is facing in all populations. Reducing disparities needs all levels and all areas hands on, working together to tackle each and every one that is affecting our population as a whole and as individuals.
After the congressional roundtable, we had the first panel of the day. This panel was a part 2 of one that we got to witness on day 1: building healthy communities. Today this panel looked at community based programs that work. This panel consisted of different organizations and company representatives. We got to hear from AmeriHealth, a representative from the Office of Behavioral Health with the Louisiana department of health, as well as a nonprofit organization working with children and their access to healthcare, and a Professor from Dillard who spoke on VA and their access to healthcare. This panel showed us different tactics that each organization is currently using in order to tackle health disparities and what the keynotes are for them to work.
AmeriHealth focuses on partnering with providers and community-based organizations in order to have a successful health program and make an impact on the community. Ms. Karen Dale, there representative, also made the great point to remember that each person is at a different point and we must start with each individual at that point to be the most effective. The department of health made the great point to make an effort to get involved and to bring attention to the issues we are facing in order to tackle them head on.
As for the other two speakers, children and access to health care focuses on closing the gap but keeping the resources there for the growing needs. Serving over 1500 children this year alone, they focus on all children’s potential and how all children need access. The last speaker focused on the veterans and their access to healthcare. The need to know their specifics and treat them as a human and not just a member of the military is key to success and to their health. Many veterans return with moral injury, which is the difficult time they face when trying to accept what they have done while deployed and who they have become, which can deeply affect their mental health and ability to communicate their needs. Overall this panel was very educational and brought us great tools for future community based programs.
After the first panel of the day, we had the luncheon and keynote speaker. The keynote speaker was the one and only Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, the president and dean of Morehouse School of Medicine. The main point of her presentation was to show how poverty impacts the lives of children and individuals immensely. She stated, “Hungry kids cannot learn”. This statement was powerful and eye opening. It shows that poverty affects all aspects of life and truly is a disparity that too many face. Her speech revealed the different perspectives around the world and how your view and experiences can affect all aspects of your life. She gave many examples of how reading levels are affected in children and how the amount of students going on to college education level and finishing college drop significantly based on your demographics.
The rest of the day consisted of more panels on the topics of translational research and public policy, as well as police and community relations. All panels thus far have brought great knowledge and resources to all attendees of the conference. We look forward to day 3 and are grateful for the opportunity this conference has provided us!
Written by Kylin Fulton
After a long day of traveling yesterday, our group of 16 Central Washington University public health students are all here at the 10th annual National Health Disparities Conference in New Orleans, LA. The conference schedule consists of multiple keynote speakers, small break out sessions, and plenty of networking opportunities with public health professionals from all over the United States.
At 8:00am, the conference started with a message from Mrs. Michelle Alletto, the Deputy Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Public Health in Baton Rogue, LA. Her session started the conference on a strong note, and included many tools for students to be the next advocates of social change in the field of Public Health.
Alletto focused on prevention methods primarily, since last year the United States spend 2.6 trillion dollars on healthcare, but only 5% of that cost went to disease prevention. Having no prevention tools raises an issue with health disparities among different areas of Louisiana, since some areas may not have any exposure to any primary, secondary, or even tertiary prevention methods. This could contribute to the varying health disparities around different cities in Louisiana. These health disparities shorten life expectancies, with people living up to 25 years less in certain undeveloped, impoverished areas of Louisiana.
Aside from prevention, Alletto also urged that as a nation the role of racism and bias in relation to health disparities needs to be addressed. In New Orleans alone, some clinics are still side lining people that rely on Medicaid to favor those with private insurance to receive healthcare. Alletto mentioned that some clinics have certain days that Medicaid patients can come in, and some days when they cannot. This restriction on healthcare access adds unnecessary pressure to those who rely on Medicaid that need healthcare, which can increase the occurrence of health disparities among poorer parts of Louisiana. There are even certain 1-800 numbers that patients are supposed to call based on their types of insurance, which determines the quality and urgency of healthcare they receive.
One of the driving points that Alletto mentioned to prevent the occurrence of health disparities in any state is to work on “actualizing your purpose as a healthcare professional”. She used this statement because without healthcare professionals being sensitive to the entire community they are serving, there can be implicit biases (or intentional biases) that rule out people who may not be able to afford healthcare services, or have little to no access to healthcare services. A healthcare professional can state that they are sensitive to the population they work with, however their actual work demonstrations may not always be the case. By making sure health care professionals are educated and proactive about the varying needs of the population they currently serve, there is a higher likelihood of health equity being established.
In comparison to Washington, I found the amount of variance in health disparities based on cities to be astounding. Usually in Washington we have varying wealthy and poor areas, but some parts of Louisiana can be dramatically different, with wealthy parts and impoverished parts. Not to dismiss existing health disparities in Washington state, it was just different and interesting to see the distribution of health disparities among different communities in Louisiana that are dramatically different. Alletto provided in depth insight and statistics for the ongoing disparities in different areas in Louisiana (HIV/AIDS transmission, STIs, etc.) and urged healthcare students and professionals everywhere to be educated about varying areas around our states and the health disparities that different communities face.
After Alletto’s insightful speech, Dr. Camara Phyllis Jones from the Morehouse school of Medicine delivered a simplistic yet incredibly well-done model to address the social determinants of health.
Jones began with a model of a cliff with a person falling off, saying that our goal as people is to avoid falling off the “cliff of good health”. In most cases, when someone falls off the “cliff of good health”, there is nothing to soften the landing. However, when someone does fall off the cliff, there may be an ambulance at the bottom. The ambulance can take you to the hospital, but a net to catch you halfway down would prevent the injury in the first place. Going even further than that, a fence at the edge of the cliff would prevent you from walking off of the cliff at all.
This model demonstrates the necessity for primary, secondary and tertiary prevention methods in the field of health promotion. Having just an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff will save your life, but a net or fence would prevent any injury at all. However, most places in the world don’t have fences or nets, and some do not even have ambulances. Some people may have a fence and a net, and some may have nothing at all, with social determinant pressures that push them closer towards the edge of the cliff (race, income, healthcare access, etc). When there are no barriers to prevent falling off the cliff, that is where health disparities form.
Jones explained the need for all levels of prevention in the field of Public Health with this simple model, and it clearly demonstrated the need for public health professionals to be sensitive to the needs of our communities. As Alletto said earlier, the United States only spends 5% of our healthcare budget on prevention methods, which means we hardly have an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. In order to build the net, and build the fence as well, public health professionals must be sensitive to their target population, and develop programs that are realistic and effective to prevent the development of health disparities among varying communities.
There are three reasons health disparities arise, according to Jones. Differences of healthcare quality, differences of access to healthcare (including preventative services) and differences of life opportunities. If certain populations have less opportunities to receive healthcare than others, health disparities begin to form and become more prevalent over time. Healthcare professionals can prevent this by eliminating implicit biases, becoming culturally aware of our populations we work in, and being proactive about implementing prevention strategies.
I had always been unsure about the urgency of prevention strategies, since in my experience they have had little to no effect on health outcomes. However, Jones opened my eyes to what I have been lacking in my health promotion knowledge, and gave me tools to apply to health promotion methods I plan to use in the future. I feel better prepared as a student to transition into the field of public health with a knowledge of varying populations, occurrence of health disparities, and effective prevention methods.
Following these two opening sessions, the rest of the speakers were in groups talking in small panels. Our group of CWU students were evenly split throughout the day, some of us going to the Climate Change talk, and some of us attending the Sex Trafficking talk. All the afternoon sessions were extremely informative and provided in depth information about issues that we may not always dig into in Public Health, especially since the courses in our curriculum are only a quarter long and do not allow enough time to analyze health disparities in depth. The sessions gave a new perspective to researching health issues, and provided insights to many of us who specialize in certain areas of public health.
As a pre-nursing student, I was able to benefit from the luncheon speaker, Dr. Reed V. Tuckson, who spoke about being able to devote yourself to your patients while taking care of yourself at the same time. Nursing can be a very intense career, and having tools to manage your time and take care of yourself in order to provide optimal care for patients is critical. Myrinda Wolitarsky and I were able to speak to Dr. Tuckson after his session, and he told us that Public Health Students are essential to secure the future of public health. He was enthusiastic that Central Washington University had so many students attending the conference, and said we were doing a good job by devoting our energy to making a long-lasting change in the field of public health. It motivated me as a student to keep pursuing my major and finding innovative ways to contribute to the field of Public Health.
Overall, the day was organized and ran smoothly. I am proud of our group from CWU for representing our college at every single session, and providing insightful questions and contributions to the keynote speakers. Tomorrow, different students in our CWU public health travel group will report and detail the events of the day. I am impressed with the conference, and it is wonderful to connect and meet so many people who are also passionate about public health. It is an enriching, worthwhile experience that will build a strong foundation for my future public health career.
—KELLY CRONIC, Central Washington University
See Full Story @ http://www.wspha.org/events/annual-conference/scholarship-recipients/
Nice start to my Monday morning: The first email I see shares a new full-time job opportunity that could just be ideal for one of our CWU Public Health grads. As always, I’m reminded of the breadth of work settings relevant for those with our skills and commitment to change. Enjoy working with seniors? Considering relocating to Seattle? Take a look at the top listing on our Employment and Other Resources for Grads page!
What: Our annual signature event, connecting majors, alumni, and professionals in the field to highlight the work we do. This year we will have a keynote from Washington State Health Officer, Dr. Kathy Lofy and Washington Department Health Director of Community Relations and President of the Washington State Public Health Association, Paj Nandi, MPH. This address will be followed by a question and answer session along with a networking mixer. Join us for refreshments and good company!
When: January 12, 2017 5-7pm
Location: Purser Hall Room 201 with breakout sessions around Purser Hall
Think you owe something to public health? Go ahead and thank a public health person!
November 21 is Public Health Thank You Day. Click here to learn a few reasons why we might want to recognize the work of public health professionals in our communities and around the nation.
We love our alumni! We have some exciting stuff happening in the CWU Public Health Program and we’d like to keep you posted. At the same time, we love hearing from our graduates about the great work you’re doing in the field. Please join our mailing list below, and send us a note about what you’ve been up to!
Jolyn Hull (class of 2014) shares her experience in the CWU public health program, with some valuable advice for students as they enter fieldwork or further graduate studies.
Why did you choose public health as a major?
From the time I was 10 (mostly fueled by sibling rivalry), I was determined to be a lawyer. But, I distinctly remember the day it suddenly felt unappealing. I still have no idea what sparked that feeling, but I knew I no longer wanted to pursue law school. I began looking at different career paths, but couldn’t seem to find one that drew me in. A few months later, I was sitting in my geography lecture and we started discussing population health. I was disturbed by the health status of those in the country we were studying, but also was awakened to the fact that health outcomes in the U.S. are not what they should be either. I wanted to help, but didn’t realize the potential career path until later that day when I overheard a public health student talking about a project she was working on around food access. I asked her what she was studying and she told me public health. I registered for a few classes in the public health program to test it out, and declared my major shortly after a few lectures.
What have you been doing since graduating from the program?
I was a five-years plan kind of person so, when I was offered a permanent position at the end of internship at Swedish Cancer Institute, it only seemed natural to accept. I developed educational tools, algorithms, and processes for patients to obtain information throughout their continuum of care. I sat for my Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) exam, and my 5-year plan started to feel more like my 10 year plan. After about a year at SCI, I decided to pursue my Masters in Health Communication from Boston University which would allow me to continue working at SCI and complete another step in my plan. Almost immediately after beginning the coursework, I felt the urge to return to the “trenches”; I wanted to do community health work again. I struggled a lot with this feeling because I felt secure in my seemingly stable plan, but eventually started started looking out for different opportunities. After a series of well-time connections and a few months of digging, I stumbled across a non-profit called Community Choice Health & Education Institute based in Wenatchee, Wa. I say stumbled because I actually discovered their existence through one of the major health centers in Central Washington that I had been in contact with for a few months around possible employment opportunities. Out of curiosity and a bit of desperation, I reached out and got connected with who I would later find out was the Executive Director. After a few coffee dates, I was offered a position as the Health Education & Outreach Coordinator for the North Central Region of WA. I gladly accepted and am now coordinating the Stanford Chronic Disease Self-Management Programs throughout North Central WA. Had you asked me what my plan was even 6 months ago, I would have told you a completely different story. But, I found my trench and love being able to serve my community again.
What would you recommend to other students who might want to follow a similar path?
Try things and take chances. What appeared from the outside to most as a step backwards for my career ended up being a fantastic, career-advancing move. You don’t have to stay stagnant and don’t worry what others think. The beauty of Public Health is that there is always another faucet to explore and the opportunities, with a little digging and networking, are endless.
And just for fun…if you were a part of a bicycle, what would you be?
The gears, because I love puns and my life seems to always be shifting… sometimes harder than other times, but it’s necessary!
Been out in the field for a year or two? Maybe even have a master’s? Enjoy working with children and families? Interested in a move to the Southwest? Take a look at the announcement for a Case Manager position in Las Cruces
Looking to learn more about smoking cessation, e-cigs, and pregnancy? Check out this free online training, sponsored by the CDC.