Students taking the new Health and Human Performances course: Public Health System Field Study (HHP299), taught by Professor Sarah Baron, MPH, Ed. D., talked to The Broadside about what Public Health means to them and why they became interested in Public Health as a career. The goal of the course is to create a resource map, or a map that shows accessible places to get assistance, together with Aimee Snyder of Deschutes County Health Department, for the Bend La Pine School District.
Stacy Shaw’s original plans included earning an engineering degree but had a change of heart when she took Professor Baron’s Intro to Public Health (HHP100). Shaw now plans to transfer to OSU in the fall to pursue her master’s degree in Public Health focusing on biostatistics and minoring in epidemiology.
“I believe health equity is a basic human right,” said Shaw.
Public health holds different meanings for different people. Shaw gave her definition as, “an integrated part of both our government and private organizations… that promote and preserve health equality for all people.”
Shaw spoke about Professor Sarah Baron’s display of contagious enthusiasm for her work in Baron’s Intro to Public Health course. She spoke of how that enthusiasm spread to her as well as the influential nature of Public Health itself.
“I define public health as the whole health of a particular community, in every regard,” said Mike Lupton. Health equality is at the heart of public health for these students; Giving people the chance to lead healthy lives.
Public health can be described as a pyramid. There’s the bottom layer which is entirely reliant on preventing issues before they occur; think about whether you’re geographically close to a grocery store that has affordable healthy food options. The middle layer has to do with screening for potential issues, like breast cancer or sexually transmitted infections. Then there is the top layer, which is recognizing you have an issue and receiving treatment. Lupton said that his goals regarding public health are more angled toward the treatment end of the pyramid.
Although Lupton’s focus area is treatment, he and others in his class expressed particular interest in making sure that the people of the community receive access to high quality healthcare. This can be accomplished through policy changes. Even people who are insured can accumulate healthcare debt, and that only adds to their stress, decreasing their overall wellbeing as stress has negative effects on the body, the mind, and the immune system.
Jessica Scott is undecided on her future in Public Health but all the same shared her passion for contributing to the wellbeing of her community. The public health field is broad and holds opportunity for passionate students who want to make a difference in their community. The public health field is for people who decide to make a difference when there are inequities in our social system.
“I care deeply about people who easily and unfairly fall through the cracks of our systems,” said Scott.
Public health focuses on the health of a community, preventing hardships before they occur, whether that be in the financial stability sense or the environmental sense. Jessica spoke about caring for each other and caring for the whole health of another person, and how that creates an even better, even stronger community.
Being involved in the public health field means being involved in the battle of constantly trying to make a positive impact on society as well as the environments we inhabit.
“I want to participate in an active role to help make our world, and society, a better place for future generations. For my children’s children’s children…,” said Scott.
Scholarships recently became available to Public Health students through the efforts of COCC’s Public Health professor Sarah Baron, MPH, Ed. D. Baron vied for a grant to strengthen the public health of the community through educating future public health workers and helping provide additional financial stability for these students.
“[The scholarship] was available through a grant that Professor Baron received for public health courses. If it wasn’t for the scholarship, I would not have been able to take the course,” said Shaw.
COCC continues to strengthen the public health workforce by adding new Public Health curricula and received funding via a 383,000-dollar grant named The America Rescue Plan Grant from Deschutes County and the grant was matched by Central Oregon Heath Council. In addition, a 50,000-dollar endowment was made from retired physicians Dr. Durlin Hickok and Dr. Carol Wallace. These funds serve as incentive for the students who are interested in the public health field and are distributed as scholarships.