The summer after my second year of college, I volunteered for a rural medical clinic. I was undecided on my major, and I participated in this volunteer opportunity to explore my interests in healthcare. I felt overwhelmed by choices and hoped that this experience would help me decide on a career path. Although the purpose of the clinic was to provide medical care for individuals, I was particularly inspired by the health education aspect. I had the opportunity to have personal conversations with adult patients and their children about their health behaviors. I realized during a conversation I was having with a group of children on preventive health strategies, that I had a genuine passion for health education and public health.
Because of this experience, I learned the crucial role health education plays in behavior change and ultimately improving population health and decided to pursue a master’s degree in public health. But before this happened, I had close to no academic or professional exposure to public health. While I understood it existed, I did not know of all the opportunities the field presented.
I discovered that public health is constantly evolving. Simply defined, “public health protects and improves the health of individuals, families, communities, and populations, locally and globally” (“Discover,” 2019). However, I learned there are complex individual, social and environmental factors that influence health. Additionally, resources and important health information are not always available or accessible to all populations, particularly already vulnerable populations.
I was immediately drawn to Population Health Exchange in the first semester of my MPH degree program because of their commitment to offering comprehensive population health education. When deciding upon a practicum, I thought back to my reasons for pursuing a degree in public health. My vision was to offer public health education to populations who need it the most. In order to accomplish this, we need creative and passionate public health professionals. Young people are not exposed to public health as a discipline and potential career path until much later in their academic or professional lives— therefore, programs need to reach younger generations earlier in their educational journeys.
For these reasons, I am excited to be a part of PHX developing, coordinating, and teaching the PopHealthExperience: a summer enrichment program for rising 7th-10th graders. By exposing younger audiences to public health, we can diversify and multiply public health leaders of the future. The PopHealthExperience summer enrichment program will provide a foundation in public health through activities, teamwork, and lessons taught by BUSPH faculty and community members. Participants will learn to identify public health challenges and analyze solutions to address these issues head-on. Our goal is to inspire young people to explore diverse issues and careers in public health!
Discover: What is Public Health? (2019, February). Retrieved from https://www.aspph.org/discover/
The PHX Perspectives blog is a platform that creates an opportunity to share public health stories and viewpoints. Anyone interested in submitting a piece, which should be 600-800 words long, should contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Population Health Exchange reserves the right to reject or edit submissions. The views expressed are solely those of the author and are not intended to represent the views of Population Health Exchange or Boston University School of Public Health.