Patrick Kelly ’21 — My internship at the St. Joseph Department of Health has truly been a fantastic experience. I have been able to tackle my own project while also experiencing and observing the many facets of the health department. I would like to give a special thank you to the Global Health Initiative, Jill Rogers, Dr. Eric Wetzel, and Dr. Sam Milligan, for the opportunity to participate in this awesome internship experience.
Communication and Provider List
At the health department, I have been creating a list of local primary care physicians in St. Joseph County. With this list containing physicians, clinics, and contact info, we are hoping to improve communication throughout the local public health infrastructure in St. Joseph County. I have also been researching best–practiced communication methods for different providers and different health departments. Later this year, we are hoping to develop a monthly newsletter from the St. Joseph County Department of Health with updates about health in the county.
I have also been able to visit lower end elementary schools with the health department team and give healthy living lessons. Educating young people about healthy living is super important when thinking about the longevity of the community and public health because there is a huge correlation between education and health outcomes in a community.
Community Health Program
I’ve also had a great opportunity to participate in a community health program led by Dr. Mark Fox and Dr. Joe Kotva where we are focusing on the social determinants of health. I participated in a “neighborhood survey” in South Bend of about eight different neighborhoods, and we presented to the class to see the difference in each. We were looking at things like access to education, employment, transportation, food, healthcare, decay, parks, common spaces, and community protection. It was very interesting to see how these factors affected health outcomes. We also noticed big differences amongst the neighborhoods and the disparities in health equity. It was truly fascinating to see how it correlated with life expectancy. We looked at a map of life expectancy and saw a difference of 13 years, but only 3 miles apart, which is super interesting to think about.
I’ve learned that a community plays a huge role in improving public health. It is not just the health department or the doctors, but the community as a whole needs to team up to make an impact. We have also split into different groups to come up with a community need to improve public health, and have the opportunity to present this information to other community members.