Awardee: Penny Sun
Program: MPH in Global Health
Project Title: Developing a Blueprint for Children’s Health and Well-being in Mississippi
Organization: Children’s Foundation of Mississippi (Jackson, Mississippi)
The Children’s Foundation of Mississippi (CFM) is a new, independent operating foundation focused upon improving the policies and systems that affect the well-being of children in Mississippi. The CFM is serving as a convener, facilitator, advocate and catalyst for positive change in the state. The goal of this project was to help the CFM develop a blueprint to advance children’s health and well-being throughout the state, to be used as a strategic guide for the CFM’s activities. This blueprint would not only articulate the top challenges faced by children in the state for an audience of state agencies, nonprofits, and private sector partners, but also the priority areas where the CFM could maximize their impact on children’s health, education, and well-being outcomes (e.g. the most feasible interventions where the Foundation had expertise). This statewide, multisectoral plan would fill a major gap in the state: Mississippi has no overarching strategic plan to align actors in addressing the challenges that children face. Finally, the project was intended to draw primarily from Mississippians’ expertise and lived experience. Following the analysis of Mississippians’ concerns and recommendations, we then researched best practices from other geographies to adapt for Mississippi.
Most rewarding part of the field experience
The most rewarding aspect of my experience was the close collaboration with my classmate and friend, Fortunate Chifamba, and our Children’s Foundation team: Dr. Linda Southward, Therese Hanna, and Izzy Pellegrine. It was an amazing experience working so closely with this team to speak to and learn from so many Mississippians, analyze the data, and craft my chapter for the Blueprint about expanding Broadband access across Mississippi.
Advice for students doing work in the field
Don’t lose sight of your passions and reasons for being in public health – bring what you learn in the field into everything else you do in public health. As a public health practitioner or researcher, it’s important to think carefully through not just the “what” and “why” but also the “how”, “who will I partner with”, and “who is this for – and how are they represented” – as a student you may not be the one deciding the answers, but it’s good to start building the habit of asking these questions.
Thank you so much to Dr. Linda Southward and Therese Hanna for your mentorship, thought leadership, and example! Thank you to Izzy Pellegrine and Ben Walker for your guidance in qualitative and quantitative data analysis. Thank you to Jocelyn Chu and Ra’Shaun Nalls for your teachings about community engaged learning and being a learner – rather than leader – in the field. Thank you to Dr. Bill Bean for your encouragement and support. Thank you to Dr. Bizu Gelaye, Dr. Mary Wesley, the Board of the Children’s Foundation, the Delta Directions Consortium, and the Herbert S. Winokur, Jr. Fellowship for creating this opportunity.