I have been interning for the Massachusetts Public Health Association in Boston for over a month now and so far it has been a very fun and eventful experience. The Massachusetts Public Health Association (MPHA) is a non-profit organization aimed at creating health equity for everyone. They are aware of the social determinants of health, and that there are many people who have less access to a healthy lifestyle.
They address issues from low access to healthy and affordable foods, to unsafe streets. They have secured $6 million for the Mass Food Trust which aims to create more access to healthy and affordable food in food deserts/food swamps. This is what first drew me into this organization.
The problem of food deserts and food swamps is very personal to me, as I grew up in a food swamp. A food desert describes neighborhoods that have low access to a grocery store or supermarket. A food swamp, on the other hand, may have a nearby grocery store, but has too much access to unhealthy food. For instance, in my childhood neighborhood I can easily walk to McDonald’s, Taco Bell, KFC, Burger King, etc. (less than a mile away), however the closest grocery store requires a car to get there. This results in overconsumption of unhealthy foods which leads to diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. I like the idea of combating the problem where it starts (healthy food access) rather than only fighting the outcome (chronic disease).
Not only does MPHA aim to create greater access to healthy and affordable food, they also advocate for the Complete Streets Program which aims to make local roads “more walkable, bikeable, and viable for public transit users”. The staff members walk to the state house right across the street in order to attend rallies, go to hearings, deliver flyers to senators, etc. multiple times throughout the week.
For the first month of my time at MPHA, I agreed to help prepare for their 15th Annual Spring Awards Breakfast which took place on June 2nd. This breakfast is to honor health equity champions that have made great strides in the public health of Massachusetts. I helped to write press releases for the honorees, created posters, called potential guests, and more.
Once the day of the breakfast came, I was so happy to have helped put it together because of how well it turned out. I was able to listen to the speeches of the honorees and felt truly inspired by their tireless work in their communities.
After the breakfast, my responsibilities changed to work on a story mining project. MPHA does really good work, although the positive i
mpact on people that they have and their other accomplishments are not always effectively promoted as much as they’d like. Therefore, I am interviewing various people in Massachusetts so that I can write their stories to be published online and in print materials. When I’m not working on the story mining project, I go to the state house to attend hearings and rallies as well as provide assistance with data entry .
By the end of the summer, I hope that I will be able to effectively show the impact that MPHA has had throughout the Commonwealth. I also hope to be more certain about what exactly I want to do in the public health field after I graduate from Brandeis.
Karen Caldwell, ’18