Thursday, May 25, 2017

Capstone 2017 – Ashley Hess

Presented May 4, 2017, Ashley Hess took the opportunity to explore the relationship between access to legal services and health outcomes. In her presentation, Ashley reminded us of some of the key social determinants of health. These include, but are not limited to, access to quality housing, education and healthcare as well as employment/income, legal status and even family responsibilities. It should be no surprise that access to legal services is subject to many, if not all, the same limitations as good health.

Ashley’s project centered around examining how medical legal partnerships (MLP)—collaborations among medical and legal services with the aim of addressing legal, social and health related issues for vulnerable patients or those underserved in a clinical setting—have been applied to address the social determinants of health. The Erie Family Health Center, a partner of Loyola’s School of Law and the Beazley Institute for Health Law and Policy, regularly refers patients that meet a list of criteria to the Health Justice Project. By probing the open and closed case data—available since the program’s 2010 inception—Ashley was able to extrapolate the data to the city of Chicago as a whole. The case data revealed case outcomes included enrollment in Medicaid, receipt of SNAP benefits, abatement of substandard housing conditions and eviction defenses provided. Cases were often closed due to immigration status, employment or other family law issues.

Overall, the MLP examined is making a positive impact in this community, however, there is much work to be done to further its effectiveness. Besides increasing staffing, Ashley’s research suggests that MLPs could benefit by expanding their education and legal education offerings, developing a more open communication process between participating entities as well as establishing a more holistic approach to addressing social justice.

Learn more about Ashley’s capstone experience.

Why did you choose to pursue an MPH?
I participated in two public health trips to Honduras through Global Brigades during my undergraduate career. While there, our group was responsible for building a latrine, stove, water storage unit and shower as well as installed concrete floors in the homes of the families we worked with. We were also responsible for preparing an educational program about proper hygiene and hypertension for children at the local school. After having this experience and working with community members, I knew I wanted to do more with public health and empower those around me to better their circumstances. 

What led you to your topic?
I worked with the Health Justice Project during my practicum in the fall of 2016. During this time, I helped research health outcomes related to lead and arsenic exposure through contaminated dust and soil. Through our work, we were able to change HUD’s requirements for blood lead levels to warrant intervention. The legal side of health was something I did not know much about at the time, but as I immersed myself more into the work, I wanted to make sure I incorporated it into my capstone.

Why was the content or theme important to you?
Legal services are not a right for individuals pursuing civil cases but are a right for those involved in criminal ones. When first researching my topic, I was very surprised to see what a difference legal aid has on health outcomes. By simply addressing legal needs in a medical setting, vulnerable populations can gain imperative services such as Medicaid, Social Security, WIC, and receive assistance for paying utility bills.

Where are you headed with your career?
I am currently looking for a job that utilizes my degree and incorporates the legal aspects of policy development. 



A student’s Capstone project is a professional presentation, which demonstrates his/her ability to apply the program learning to a specific public health topic. Selected by the student, the project reflects a culmination of the course curriculum, field experience and independent study. This experience helps students explore their academic passions while preparing them for a competitive job market.

Monday, March 6, 2017

SPENT – Making Sense of Poverty

With an office in Durham, North Carolina, the prestigious McKinney advertising agency developed and launched an interactive game called SPENT for its pro bono client Urban Ministries of Durham

Inspired by such games as SimCity and FarmVille, SPENT combines a familiar virtual environment with the reality of those living in poverty. The game guides players through real dilemmas individuals and families make throughout the course of a month. Given $1,000 to live on, the goal is to end up with money left over at the end, however, the challenge is to have enough money at all. Players quickly learn how even minor changes in employment, transportation or health can have disastrous consequences.

Learn more through McKinney’s video about the development of SPENT.


After playing SPENT, Perpetue Bariyanga shared:
As professionals, we tend to want to judge people that we meet. However, we never know what another person is going through.
SPENT highlighted that some people may be doing their best and that might not be enough to help them live comfortably or at the same level that we might expect. No parent wants to see their kids go hungry because they may be bullied or laughed at due to getting free lunch meals. Every parent wants to do what is best for their children, but sometimes budget constraints limit activities—such as fieldtrips or birthday parties—that might not be a necessity at that moment.
For many, every day is a struggle. SPENT helped me better understand what some people might be going through. It reinforced my belief that being compassionate and understanding towards others can go a long way.

Rachel White shared:
On SPENT, I tried to make it through the entire month. However, on day 29, my bank account balance was $3 and the bank charged me $5 for letting my balance go below $50. Throughout the whole game, I tried to use as little money as possible unless it seemed absolutely necessary. I felt bad that I wasn’t paying my bills and loans, but I just didn’t have enough money to pay everything.
The experience was a rather eye-opening activity. I did not expect it to be as difficult as it was.

Poverty is a reality for millions, but unless you’ve experienced it firsthand, it can be difficult to understand. Simulations like SPENT help to bridge the gap in our understanding.

Can you make it through the month? PlaySPENT.org

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Year of Climate Change and Health


The American Public Health Association (APHA) has declared 2017 to be the Year of Climate Change and Health.

What is climate change?

Climate is the usual temperature, precipitation and other conditions that have prevailed in an area over a long period of time. While changes to the weather can occur in a matter of hours, climate changes take hundreds or even millions of years. However, even small changes can have big effects.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), while fluctuations prior to the Industrial Revolution in the 1700s can be explained by natural events, recent changes cannot. It is extremely likely that human activities, such as burning coal, oil and gas, are the dominant forces behind recent global warming and subsequent climate change. Learn more...

Why is climate change important to public health professionals?

Climate change has the potential to:

  • Threaten human safety by increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather.
  • Disrupt food supply due to droughts, floods and increased plant disease vulnerability.
  • Increase risk of illness and death associated with more frequent, hotter days.
  • Lead to respiratory and cardiovascular issues due to poor air quality.
  • Cause outbreaks of vectorborne diseases in geographic areas, not previously hospitable.

While every American is vulnerable to the impact climate change can have on their health, those that have a chronic disease, are elderly or poor are disproportionately at greater risk of injury or death related to climate change. The effects of climate change are obviously borderless and threaten the global population. Learn more... 


Is there a global plan to reduce climate change?

On November 4, 2016, the Paris Agreement—the world’s first comprehensive climate agreement proposed within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change—was entered into force. Participating countries set nationally determined contributions of reduced emissions to that pooled together should slow rising temperatures. The effects on climate change of this agreement have yet to be realized. Learn more...

Climate change is an APHA priority topic & issue.

APHA recognizes that there is still much work to be done to convince the public and elected officials that climate change effects health and that strong climate change strategies and interventions are just as important to protecting the health and safety of all people.
“Climate change is the greatest public health challenge we face today. We must ensure the best science and policies to reduce our risks.” - Georges Benjamin, MD, APHA Executive Director
Through the declaration of 2017 as the Year of Climate Change and Health, APHA is attempting to heighten awareness and garner the support of more public health entities in the fight against this growing threat. APHA encourages public health advocates to follow the conversation using #ClimateChangesHealth and become a partner.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Capstone 2016 – Deborah Manst

Presented December 9, 2016, Deborah Manst’s Capstone project addressed the magnitude, risk factors and impact of food insecurity. Through three pronged idea derived from a pilot study done in Hartford, Connecticut, Deborah’s Freshplace model combines a food pantry with motivational interviewing and increased access to resources to address the issue.

Food insecurity is defined as the inability to obtain enough nutritious food for a healthy and active lifestyle. Affecting 48 million Americans, risk factors include unemployment, poverty and limited access (such as living in a food desert or limited transportation). Food insecurity is linked to many chronic and mental health conditions. Communities all across the country bear the burden of the negative consequences of this issue.

Even though DuPage County is considered the healthiest in Illinois, 8% of the population is food insecure. Deborah’s Freshplace concept would help close the gap and ensure that the disadvantaged population has access to fresh produce, gains confidence with healthy diet information and feels empowered by professionals trained to build self-confidence. Freshplace is a relatively simple program that could have wide-spread benefits to participating individuals and families that extend to the broader community.

In addition to earning her MPH from Loyola University Chicago, Deborah holds a BS in Molecular and Cellular Biology from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, an MA in Medical Sciences from Loyola University Chicago and an MD from Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.


Learn more about Deborah’s Capstone experience.  


Why did you choose to pursue an MPH? 

Prior to starting the MPH program, I went to medical school and residency, but for personal reasons took some time away from medicine. In looking for what to do next, I decided that getting an MPH was in line with my nature to help people. I felt that improving community wellness on a broader scale would be a great way to utilize and further my skills. I appreciate Loyola’s humanistic approach to learning. Having completed my previous graduate and medical programs at Loyola, it was a clear choice for me to return to Loyola. Since I thrive on interacting with people and have strong leadership skills, I entered the policy and management track.

What led you to your topic?  

During my internship at the DuPage Federation on Human Services Reform, a public service organization, I became aware of the problem of food insecurity—a significant issue in which impoverished people are unable to obtain enough healthy food. I visited the Northern Illinois Food Bank and the Naperville Loaves & Fishes food pantry to better understand the magnitude of the issue. This inspired me to work on a capstone addressing food insecurity in DuPage County.


What was your biggest accomplishment while in the program?

I was selected for one of four public health graduate study scholarships from the Illinois Public Health Association and traveled to Springfield, IL to accept the award!


Where are you headed with your career? 

At this time, I am seeking employment in Chicagoland with a public health organization focused on community wellness. I plan to continue in a position where I can make a difference in public health, and may possibly re-enter the medical field to directly apply what I have learned in the MPH program to treating patients. 


A student’s Capstone project is a professional presentation, which demonstrates his/her ability to apply the program learning to a specific public health topic. Selected by the student, the project reflects a culmination of the course curriculum, field experience and independent study. This experience helps students explore their academic passions while preparing them for a competitive job market.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Capstone 2016 – Brittany Lee

Presented December 15, 2016, Brittany Lee’s Capstone presented an innovative, women’s-based health initiative called Monique’s Gift. With the aim of decreasing the number of HIV/AIDS infections among women, the mobile concept raises awareness of the disease, provides testing and offers support. By initially operating only in the Edgewater and Uptown neighborhoods of Chicago, the intervention will reach a higher number of the intended target—African American women.

Why focus on African American women? Brittany’s research uncovered some alarming statistics. African American women are disproportionately affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Although African American women equal just 12% of the total U.S. population of women, they account for 62% of all new HIV diagnosis. Among African American women, 10.5% of HIV transmissions were the result of sharing needles for injection drugs. Monique’s Gift would directly address many of the unique socioeconomic and behavior factors the women of this target group face that are not well-addressed by other programs.

Monique’s Gift puts greater emphasis on analyzing the social conditions that effect African American women’s lives. A program like this could prove effective in these Chicago neighborhoods and scale to produce substantial benefits in other at-risk, primarily African American, communities.


Learn more about Brittany’s Capstone experience.  


Why did you choose to pursue an MPH? 

After earning my Bachelor’s Degree in justice studies from Northeastern Illinois University, I continued my education at DePaul University. While pursuing my Juris Doctorate, with a certificate in International Law, I realized that I didn’t want to practice law in the traditional sense and be a courtroom attorney. I took a health law class and the policy aspect of it really interested me. Some additional field work led me to look at MPH programs. I decided to pursue the policy and management track. I look forward to making an impact with my background in law and justice studies in combination with my new public health knowledge.

What led you to your topic?  

I decide to focus on African American women and HIV because I feel these together are not discussed often enough. Public awareness of HIV in America is primarily focused on men who have sex with men. If race is brought into the conversation, the focus is generally about black men who have sex with men. However, African American women are being infected at alarming rates. This fact deserves focus and resources to address why. Bringing the conversation and testing capabilities to at risk communities—rather than waiting for individuals to seek information or testing for some reason—could influence real change in the transmission rate.


Why was the content or theme important to you?

As an African American woman, this topic was important and personal. It was a process of reflection, research and discovery. I wanted to understand why women with the same racial background as me were being infected with HIV at such an alarming and disproportionate rate. What was different between me and them? What about their lives and community could make them more prone to contracting HIV? This project helped me—as I hope it does others—become more aware that access to quality health education and healthcare can have a grave impact on large groups of people, particularly minorities.


Where are you headed with your career?  

I just started working with Presence Health as a Quality Improvement Specialist. I’m really enjoying the position because I feel it is really important that doctors are held to a standard that achieves the best patient care. I love that I get to write policy and be involved in program development for Presence Medical Group. I hope to continue to grow in this job and with the company over time. 


A student’s Capstone project is a professional presentation, which demonstrates his/her ability to apply the program learning to a specific public health topic. Selected by the student, the project reflects a culmination of the course curriculum, field experience and independent study. This experience helps students explore their academic passions while preparing them for a competitive job market.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Diabetes in Mexico & US Seminar - Tuesday, February 7th

The next Department of Public Health Sciences Seminar is "Diabetes in Mexico & US"

Location: Tuesday, February 7th at 11 a.m. in CTRE room #504.

Drs. Cooper and Durazo-Arvizu are developing a project to follow-up on the findings from Mexico, in particular to determine why case fatality rates are so high.  Comparisons with appropriate cohorts of Mexican Americans in the US should help us understand the question of what key ingredients of diabetes management are missing in Mexico.

We are confronted with the question:  Is prevention the only hope, or can we reduce mortality and morbid events with medical therapy?

The associated readings for the discussion can be found below.
Mexican Cohort Study
Diabetes in the US
Diabetes Interventions
VA Trials