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Profiles in Public Health

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Tara Chico

DrPH, Maternal and Child Health

1. In one sentence, what is public health to you?

Public health is improving the health of families and communities through health promotion and disease prevention, detection and control through the lens of community empowerment.

2. What inspired you to study to public health?

While I was working with a tribal community for Child Protective Services in Arizona, I observed that families were often in a perpetual cycle of violence, and drug and alcohol abuse. I worked with them to recover and heal from this cycle of abuse and reunite their families. While in this position, I realized the need for a call to action; many times I felt I was putting a Band-Aid over deep rooted issues with an emphasis on downstream approaches, however I felt myself looking for more upstream approaches to help these families recover.

3. What has been the single most rewarding experience of your career/studies so far?

In my career and studies, I have been involved in American Indian research and practice. I have been able to evaluate the cultural, political and social determinants of health within American Indian families through the lens of community-based research methods, framework and theory. In turn, this has given me the skills to work more effectively within American Indian communities by empowering and building a link between public health and equality.

4. What is the one piece of advice you wish someone had given you when you were starting out in public health?

Not to narrow yourself to one specific topic and/or subject area. The world of public health is huge and narrowing yourself into one specific area can limit you and your ability to experience different elements of public health.

5. What do you think is the biggest challenge that the public health field should be focusing on?

I think one of the biggest challenges in public health is the disconnect between public health practitioners and the communities in which they work in. I have often found that practitioners have a difficult time translating information to the people in a particular community which then leads to miscommunication and ultimately, unsuccessful public health programs. Public health should focus on bridging the gap between practitioners and these communities to create successful and sustainable programs.

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