Posts tagged ‘CityMatCH’

Public Health in Preschools and Prisons

Two of our MCH Scholars attended this year’s CityMatCH Urban Maternal and Child Health Leadership Conference, held in conjunction with the Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology Conference, in Philadelphia, September 14 – 16.

By Thea Lange, BA

Mass incarceration is a national issue that threatens the health and human rights of all citizens. In the United States, one out of every three black boys is expected to be incarcerated at some point in his life. This involvement with the criminal justice system could interrupt his schooling, impact his employment and earning potential, increase his risk of disease, and disrupt his social capital. As a result, mass incarceration is disproportionately impacting, not only young black men, but their entire communities.

The majority of detainees and inmates are adults, but the criminalization of black bodies starts as early as preschool. Young black students make up only eighteen percent of preschoolers but represent almost half of all out-of-school suspensions. As black students continue through the school system, they are three times more likely than white students to be suspended. In addition, “zero-tolerance” discipline strategies quickly involve the criminal justice system for minor juvenile offenses creating a pipeline from schools to prisons.

Keynote Speaker Bryan Stevenson and Tulane MPH student Thea Lange

Keynote speaker Bryan Stevenson and Tulane MPH student Thea Lange

This year, the City MatCH/Epidemiology Conference in Philadelphia placed an emphasis on the role of public health in mitigating the structural racism embedded in our country. The conference opened with keynote speaker, Bryan Stevenson, reminding public health professionals of their role in addressing the injustices perpetrated against people of color both inside and outside the criminal justice system. As a public interest lawyer, Mr. Stevenson has dedicated his career to serving the poor, incarcerated and condemned.

In his work and in his life, Mr. Stevenson has witnessed the detrimental effects of structural racism on the health and well-being of people of color. He encouraged us, as public health leaders, to think and talk about our identities and implicit biases. He told us to stay proximate to the populations we serve and retain our cultural humility. He implored us to change the narrative around race in our country by acknowledging the injustices of the past and recognizing the terror black families live in everyday. He told us to hold onto hope because, despite the challenges, people and systems can change. And he encouraged us to be willing to do uncomfortable things because discomfort is part of the healing process. With his keynote speech, Bryan Stevenson set the tone for the rest of the conference.

With tears in my eyes and passion in my heart, I was elated to be immersed in a community that recognizes the structural racism embedded in our society and how it intersects with the public health, criminal justice and education systems. I engaged in lengthy conversations about criminalization of young black children in schools and the progression of that bias into correctional settings. I attended symposiums on how to interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline and integrate trauma-informed practices into school settings. I obtained insights into how to effectively communicate with legislators and influence policy on the local level. In the end, I came away from the CityMatCH conference with greater insight into how to effectively continue doing the work I am doing.

Thea Lange is a second-year MPH student, concentrating in Maternal and Child Health. She received a bachelor degree in Anthropology from Mount Holyoke College and continues to integrate her undergraduate background into her public health work. Her interests include early childhood education, criminal justice reform, and trauma-informed care.




October 7, 2016 at 10:10 am Leave a comment

Opening Hearts and Minds to Create Change

Two of our MCH Scholars attended this year’s CityMatCH Urban Maternal and Child Health Leadership Conference, held in conjunction with the Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology Conference, in Philadelphia, September 14 – 16.

By Miranda Pollock, BS

Miranda Pollock and Thea Lange, MPH students, at CityMatCH/MCH Epi

The 2016 CityMatCH/MCH Epidemiology conference theme was Creating Change: Data, Programs and Policies for Healthy Mothers, Children and Families. The sessions were incredible, and definitely adhered to the theme by sparking plenty of positive change. It took place in Philadelphia, PA, which, as one speaker mentioned, is “The city of brotherly love…and sisterly affection.” The conference took off to a running start as Bryan Stevenson was the opening plenary speaker. He is a lawyer, social justice activist, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, and a clinical professor at New York University School of Law. His TED Talk can be seen here.

Bryan called attention to the health disparities that exist in MCH populations due to race being an issue of power, and as those with access to power are disconnected from the poor.

He also talked about the importance of knowing your own identity in order to start difficult conversations which may ultimately lead to change. He stated, “I do what I do because I’m broken, too!” This was particularly inspiring and encouraging as he provided an example of vulnerability and authenticity – two qualities that foster great leadership. Bryan then called upon the audience for action, as he urged that certain zip codes in the United States should be considered to be in a state of emergency. This is due to terrible health and incarceration outcomes as compared to other neighboring zip codes. Bryan also alluded to the importance of self-care in a field that demands so much of people. He called on the room full of Maternal and Child Health professionals to protect ourselves from things that make us feel hopeless.

The city of brotherly love... and sisterly affection

The city of brotherly love… and sisterly affection

Aside from CityMatCH having a tear-jerking and motivating opening plenary, the breakout sessions, symposiums, and workshops were also fantastic. I was able to attend sessions related to my passions in equity, community health, reproductive justice, preconception health, and was even lucky enough to hear Belinda Pettiford (my practicum preceptor, and the North Carolina Women’s Health Branch Head) highlight her team’s powerful work on infant mortality reduction and the social determinants of health. All in all, the conference was a success and I look forward to attending in the future.

Miranda Pollock is a second year MPH student in Maternal and Child Health. She plans to graduate in May 2017. Her interests include reproductive and LGBTQ health, qualitative methods, and storytelling for social change. She also loves cycling, yoga, and the arts.




October 6, 2016 at 2:09 am Leave a comment

Feeling Refreshed

One of our MPH students recently attended the CityMatCH Leadership Conference (September 27 – 30, 2015, in Salt Lake City, UT) and was asked to share a few thoughts about her experience.

by Keara Rodela, BA

CityMatCHThere is something very energizing to be surrounded by people of a like mind who are discussing issues they are passionate about and that energy was felt throughout the entire CityMatCH conference.  The energy was even more vibrant as we gathered and celebrated CityMatCH’s 25 years of dedication to urban MCH leadership and capacity building.   The theme for 2015 was Refresh Passion, Purpose, and Possibility and everyone in attendance left feeling refreshed and with clear focus on the next step.  This smaller conference, compared to APHA, allows you to personally meet and interact with experts from the highest governmental bureaus down to the smallest rural county health department administration.  You will hear constant discussions flowing around the many innovative ways organizations are addressing MCH issues, and how heath disparities are being addressed within the program planning and implementation processes.

I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to take the technical skills learned at the conference and immediately apply them to my class projects and internship work at Best Babies Zone.  I would strongly encourage anyone who has even a small interest in MCH to attend CityMatCH.  The experience will strengthen your interest and introduce you to the people who are on the front lines fighting to make our women, children and families healthier mentally, emotionally and physically.

Keara Rodela is a second-year MPH student and CEMCH Scholar, with a focus in Maternal and Child Health and health disparities. 

October 22, 2015 at 4:50 pm Leave a comment


Several MPH students recently attended the joint CityMatCH Leadership & MCH Epidemiology Conference (September 17 – 19, 2014, in Phoenix, AZ) and were asked to share a few thoughts about their experiences. What follows is one of these reflections.

by Gloria Grady, BA

During this conference, one word kept popping up in my mind: momentum. A lot of ideas and concepts seem to be picking up momentum in the field of maternal and child health. In the short time I have been in the field, I’ve noticed more and more attention being placed on social and economic inequalities, Life Course, and racism as a public health issue. More so than just attention, these issues are gaining momentum for action. While public health workers may still be confused about how to address racism and income inequality, many are finding ways to put it in their job description to address injustices. During this conference, I realized that I am part of this movement, of this momentum toward a new paradigm that incorporates the fight for social equality into the public health job description. I realized that I have come into public health at the perfect time—when the field needs its new workers to keep this movement, this new (at least, it seems new to me) paradigm, rolling and snowballing into action.

This conference made me thankful for whatever or whoever has placed me here, now, in this field. I am thankful that my passions are lined up to a movement that needs more hands, and I am hopeful that change will come with the efforts of public health workers and others working to end injustice.

 Gloria Grady is a second-year MPH student and MCHLT Scholar, with a focus in Maternal and Child Health and a particular interest in reducing health disparities.

October 13, 2014 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

Doing our best

Several MPH students recently attended the joint CityMatCH Leadership & MCH Epidemiology Conference (September 17 – 19, 2014, in Phoenix, AZ) and were asked to share a few thoughts about their experiences. What follows is one of these reflections.

by Alicia Lightbourne, BA

What surprised me most about the CityMatCH conference was the fight and determination in every speech I attended and the fervor of every participant. Instead of becoming jaded and complacent as they became more and more frustrated with the system, even the most senior participants were fervent about doing something and still whole-heartedly believed in that often dismissed, childish notion of ‘making a difference’. However, some pointed fingers back into the crowd when discussing why some aspects of public health hadn’t improved as much as previously hoped.

One of the more memorable speeches I attended initially seemed so obscure; it was about infographics, led by a graphic designer, and largely attended by epidemiologists. The tension was palpable almost immediately. The speaker tried to enforce that the point of public health was to compel a behavior change in the public whereas the crowd was adamant that her tactics compromised the accuracy of the data by oversimplifying it. “Who cares?” she almost yelled in response.  The rising frustration humored and intrigued me. I had never before considered the lack of connection between data and policy, but here public health professionals were staunchly divided and livid – over something as basic as charts.

In the scramble for funding and accuracy, it is often easy to forget about the target audience – the public. When addressing health disparities, we need to find ways to motivate, engage, and connect. We should offer solutions and hope in the face of seemingly insurmountable epidemiology.

We not only can do better, we should be doing our best.

Alicia Lightbourne is a second-year MPH student concentrating in Maternal and Child Health. Her interests include adolescent health and how gender norms impact health outcomes.

October 10, 2014 at 8:10 am Leave a comment

The Location and Color of Health

Several MPH students recently attended the joint CityMatCH Leadership & MCH Epidemiology Conference (September 17 – 19, 2014, in Phoenix, AZ) and were asked to share a few thoughts about their experiences. What follows is one of these reflections.

by Anne Fields, BA

Recently I was afforded the opportunity to travel with fellow students to Phoenix, Arizona for the CityMatCH Leadership and MCH Epidemiology Conference. Two of the main themes explored throughout the conference were place and race as they relate to health inequalities.   In many ways, this is so evident in our world. We can think about the poorest places on earth, in the United States, or in New Orleans, and even within these places, inequalities are still stratified by race. As we climb up the totem pole, the trend will continue. People of color are consistently missing out on their share of the pie. Yet, it is through the incorporation of the inequalities by place that we can see clearly this is not the result of poor genetics, lack of worth, or bootstraps, or any other excuse made to deny the racism that still exists right now.   These inequalities are a result of the environment and the system into which one is born. Otherwise, place stratification would not occur. If it were as simple as genetics, then it would not matter where you lived. Those conditions would not drastically impact your health. But they do.

Unfortunately the systems we have in place to remedy these health inequalities are failing. Why? Another hot topic at this year’s conference was the life course. Instead of thinking about health as the moment when an individual reaches a breaking point, gets sick, and thus enters the health care system, we have to consider what is happening over the entire lifetime that led to that breaking moment. We have to think about fixing the problems before they even begin. We have to look at the root causes. We have to look at why the teenager is engaging in risky sexual behaviors rather than why they are pregnant.

I recently attended a training for mental health professionals interested in learning about and assisting with the influx of unaccompanied minors to New Orleans.   In the past year, at least 1,300 unaccompanied children immigrants have arrived in Louisiana. The majority of these children are from Honduras, as well as El Salvador and Guatemala. They are fleeing gang violence. Honduras currently has the highest murder rate in the world. However, these children are being denied their human rights as asylum seekers because the United States conveniently has not created a policy to grant asylum to those that are not fleeing “an identified political regime.” They are placed in detention centers that are referred to as “ice boxes” because they are intentionally kept so cold so that other children en camino will hear and not want to come.   Children are forced to stand up for days on end. Children are dying of hypothermia and left on the floor among the other children. Yes, this is holocaust–esque and, yes, this is happening right now in the United States.   These children have been raped, seen their siblings and friends raped, seen murder, seen other children eaten by coyotes, and experienced such horrific things that I cannot even imagine having lived through. The idea that place and race are not at play here is ludicrous. The idea that it is somehow their responsibility, not ours, is also ludicrous.

While much of this information is extremely overwhelming, and leaves one feeling like a really, really small fish in the middle of the ocean, simple, small steps and local movements were reiterated throughout the conference. The fact that a room full of public health professionals simply acknowledged race as an ever-present issue in our society is a step.   The fact that there was a training of local members and allies of the Latino community is a step. The fact that you are reading a blog about MCH is a step. We have to sweat the small stuff in order to achieve real change.

Anne Fields is a second-year dual-degree MSW/MPH student, concentrating in Maternal and Child Health. She plans to graduate in August 2015. Her interests include adolescent health, sexual health, behavioral health integration, and immigrant populations.  She also loves running, yoga, and cooking.

October 9, 2014 at 7:51 am Leave a comment

Ideas I will carry with me

Several MPH students recently attended the joint CityMatCH Leadership & MCH Epidemiology Conference (September 17 – 19, 2014, in Phoenix, AZ) and were asked to share a few thoughts about their experiences. What follows is one of these reflections.

by Helena Likaj, BA

Flying out to CityMatCH I was very excited. I was excited to gather with new faces  in a new city to share our passions and discuss the amazing work that is being done within Epidemiology and MCH. The moment the Conference Welcome began I knew that the excitement was well warranted.

Throughout the conference I was touched deeply with the words that presenters and speakers graced us with. So much that I decided write a few quotes down so I could remember them throughout my public health journey but also share them with others.

“ Float before you swim.”
“Anything that can be done can be undone.”
“Rock the boat.”
“What do we owe this kid? This kid did not create these consequences.”
“Zip code matters more than genetic code.”
“You can’t cure a lifetime of illness in nine months.”

These quotes probably spoke to the audience in a number of different ways but without a doubt we all left inspired by these words. Through these quotes and a number of other discussions, I left Arizona and came back to New Orleans with a number of thoughts.

We must be ready to understand the needs and wants of community members,  face opposition head on, we must remember the importance of the life course perspective and promote a healthy lifestyle early in the life of a child, we must break down and chip away at the norms of society that have lead to such great inequality and disparity among individuals, and we must fight for the right of equality and access to a healthy life for all regardless of your gender, race, level of education, and financial situation. These are the ideas with which I left CityMatCH and these are the ideas that I will carry with me throughout my professional and personal life.

Helena Likaj is a second-year MPH student and MCHLT Scholar, concentrating in Maternal and Child Health. She plans to graduate in May 2015. Her interests include adolescent reproductive health.

October 8, 2014 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

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