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Maryland Honors Community Partners on Public Health Thank You Day

The University of Maryland School of Public Health is thankful for our diverse group of public health partners — from federal government agencies to health services corporations to local non-profits — that host our students for internships and practical experiences, teaching and mentoring them in the science and craft of public health research and practice. On Public Health Thank You Day, we would like to acknowledge and thank them.

Through these partnerships, Maryland School of Public Health students engage in meaningful work, from creating social media campaigns to conducting research to developing health education curricula, and much more.

A few examples of student experiences working with local organizations in our home county, Prince George’s, focus on partnerships with organizations that serve families and children.

Ms. Fiona Kennedy, 21, who is a public health science undergraduate student, serves as a leader with the Healthy Futures Program, which is led by Health Services Administration professor of the practice Dr. Elliott Segal and is focused on reducing childhood obesity. Their “Health Matters” initiative focuses on promoting a culture of health among young children and their families. She and fellow students learn by partnering with childcare centers, such as the Greenbelt Children’s Center, on how they can best improve the mental and physical health of young pupils. She and fellow students prepare and deliver nutrition lessons in collaboration with the teachers.

The kinesiology students in Dr. Marvin Scott’s “Community Kinnections” class learn as much as they teach at the College Park Academy Public Charter School. Community Kinections students lead after-school basketball, Taekwondo and other after school wellness activities for middle- and high-schoolers.

Thanks to their involvement with the College Park Academy and the opportunity to gain crucial mentorship and leadership skills through hands-on activities, “These students evolve on a personal and professional level in a way you wouldn’t see anywhere else,” Dr. Scott, instructor and undergraduate program coordinator in the department of kinesiology.

The University of Maryland Extension Service Food Supplement Nutrition Education (FSNE) program helps teach low-income families how to make healthy, affordable food choices. It also gives master of public health student Ms. Lindsey Zemeir, 25, the opportunity to develop new ways to reach families. Ms. Zemeir, who is a FSNE evaluation and mobile technology associate, has created a monthly social media campaign schedule that schools can use to promote healthy nutrition behaviors online.

The campaign takes advantage of the fact that about 75 percent of parents report being online and using Facebook daily, Ms. Zemeir said. Meeting parents where they congregate online gives FSNE a chance to engage them in the nutrition education their children are receiving in schools.

“We can post about the lessons that kids participated in, and start a conversation about healthy eating and physical activity at home, she said. “Or post about other ways for parents to buy and prepare healthier foods and encourage their kids to be active.”

Public health is a hands-on vocation, and our community partners help to shape our students into the next generation of public health professionals. This spirit of helping is something we rely on at every level in the public health profession, and today we offer our partners a big thank you.