Core Competency #1:  Access and analyze archival and other data to assess a public health problem for a specific place and population.

Performing a needs assessment is a critical first step in determining the magnitude of a health problem.  It involves identifying the gaps between the current conditions and the desired conditions.  In order to do this, one must be able to identify, access, and analyze various archival data relative to the particular health problem and the specific community.  Many data sources exist and it is critical to analyze and utilize multiple sources.

In the assessment and intervention courses at the School of Public Health, I became proficient in accessing and analyzing archival data included but not limited to; the US Census, CDC mortality and morbidity tables, and MassCHIP.  This quantitative data allowed me to focus on the scope of the health problem.  This data was supplemented with qualitative data included but not limited to; peer reviewed journal articles, key informant interviews, and visits to assess the built environment.  The data collected in needs assessment is used to direct the components of a tailored intervention, and help your program to be more effective. 

For more information see section on Assessment

Core Competency #2:  Apply social and behavioral theories and quantitative and qualitative methods to the development of innovative and effective public health intervention programs.

When developing public health interventions it is important that they are based on theories that are proven in literature to be effective.  Social and behavioral theories inspire effective approaches in public health because these theories give consideration to the determinants (beliefs, behaviors, and values) of the population of interest. Interventions should also utilize the Social Ecological Model to address influences that different levels (individual, interpersonal, organizational, community, and public policy) may have on the health problem.  

The intervention our group created targeted first year BU undergraduates living on campus.  The ultimate goal was to reduce sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and normalize STI testing to reduce rates of infection.  I began with researching known determinants of STI screening in peer reviewed journal articles.  This research led me to determine that shame and stigma were major components to target in our intervention.  Matrices of individual and community change objectives were created, followed by methods to change those determinants as outlined in Theory of Planned Behavior.  In completing this process, I was confident that our intervention components could meet our goal if implemented.

For more information see section on Intervention

Core Competency #3: Develop rigorous evaluation trials to assess the efficacy of public health interventions.

Just like assessment and interventions, rigorous evaluations are key to the practice of public health. Assessing the efficacy of interventions is essential to the continued success of programs and the field of public health. Evaluations inform program planners, organizations, policy makers, and funders which programs work and which ones don't work. Proper evaluations can identify what parts of programs are effective and whether the program was or was not implemented correctly. Evaluations also provide public health professionals data to base their programs on which becomes important with the interest for evidenced-based interventions. 

In the course, Quantitative Methods for Program Evaluation, we worked in a group to develop a process and outcome evaluation of a program that has yet to be thoroughly evaluated.  We evaluated the nutrition component of World Vision's integrated emergency response in Twic County, South Sudan.  I developed an evaluation logic model to guide the process as well as a framework for the tiered nutrition treatment plan.  This process helped our group recognize the difficulties of assessing a project that has some missing information.  Other than the project we learned how to effectively look through journal articles for strengths and weaknesses associated with evaluation methods.

For more information see section on Evaluation

Core Competency #4: Communicate findings to the public and to policy makers.

Communication is an essential skill in public health. Without adequate communication of findings little change in the public's health is likely to occur. Public health practitioners must be able to communicate knowledge to the public in a way that educates and motivates change, this involves clear communication of facts as well as other advanced communication skills such as framing. Similarly, effective communication of findings to policy makers is key towards promoting large-scale changes that are necessary to improve health problems.

I discussed communication strategies in the majority of courses I took during my MPH.  I have written several policy memos to communicate findings from literature and research to induce policy changes.  In IH795: The Global AIDS Epidemic, we wrote a policy memo to the head of state for a particular country.  My memo was to the President of the Philippines regarding the AIDS epidemic's effect on men who have sex with men (MSM).  In the memo we communicated epidemiological trends of HIV/AIDS, social/economic determinants of vulnerability to HIV transmission, analysis and critique of current policies/programs, and our recommendations to improve prevention efforts.

See additional work products section for policy memo

Core Competency #5: Advocate for the institutionalization of evidence-based public health programs.

Advocacy is at the core of public health, it is the reason many practitioners get into the field. Assessment, intervention development, and program evaluation center around the common goal of advocating for health improvements and better quality of life for communities and populations.  Evaluation is expensive and seems like a waste of resources because it is not directly tied to participant outcomes.  Advocating for evidence-based programs that have been evaluated and are firmly rooted in theoretical frameworks increases the likelihood that the target population will experience the desired intervention outcomes.  It also ensures that our efforts will not waste valuable time and resources on programming that may not improve the health and quality of life.  It is important that public health  practitioners advocate for evidence-based programs to encourage future innovation and improvement in health programming efforts.

In a policy memo I drafted in MC725: Women, Children, and Adolescent Health, I advocated for the implementation of curriculum in Boston Public Schools for prevention of teen dating violence (TDV).  In this policy memo, I address the scope of TDV, current approaches in Boston, an evaluated curriculum recommendation (Safe Dates), and expected opposition. I have learned through coursework and in discussion with policy makers the power of stories to heighten response.  This policy memo incorporates the Fujita case, which was a recent TDV event in Massachusetts that has received a lot of press.  The memo also drives home the potential of TDV prevention curriculum to prevent other negative health outcomes.  

See additional work products section for policy memo