As a California native, I am still trying to get used to the idea that although it feels like -15 degrees outside and I walked home from work in what felt like a snow globe, “spring” break is right around the corner. I am excited as this spring break will be a different kind of vacation. I will be traveling with U-M’s Public Health Action and Support Team (PHAST) to work with the University of Texas School of Public Health on their Tu Salud Si Cuenta (Your Health Matters) campaign in and around Brownsville, Texas.
I knew I wanted to work on Dr. Reininger’s project as soon as she mentioned her work in community-based participatory research (CBPR) during our first video conference. I strongly believe in the power of CBPR to address socially constructed inequalities that are present both domestically and globally. In my work, I aim to work with individuals and communities, rather than just for them and am excited for this unique learning experience to be involved in CBPR.
While in Texas I will be working with my classmate Mava Cooper on three different activities. First, we will start off the week with conducting a content analysis of the campaign’s promotional materials. Second, we will work with the media team to develop a promotional video for the campaign. I believe this experience will provide a unique look into the community and allow us to hear the individual stories of community members. Lastly, we will be involved with structured observations of an environmental change, such as a sidewalk extension or new drinking fountain, implemented within the local community to promote physical activity.
Looking ahead to this packed week I do have some nerves. Am I really qualified to do this work? Will I be more of a burden than a help? There is not much time for a learning curve so we will have to adapt quickly. However, some of these nerves were alleviated when we had our first call. We were discussing the context analysis piece and as our supervisor mentioned the different constructs/theories we would be using for this component, I let go a large sigh of relief. These theories were the main focus of a core course we had just taken for our degree the previous semester. This was the boost of confidence I needed. Sure, there is a lot to learn, but it is exciting to have an opportunity to apply this knowledge in a real-world setting. Cheers to seeing how it actually works out.
I am most looking forward to the opportunity to build new relationships, enhance quick problem-solving skills, and work within the frame of cultural humility. Overall, I am excited for this chance to challenge myself in a new setting and to experience a new culture. In addition to these more academic experiences, I cannot wait for the sunshine, temperatures above freezing, and authentic Mexican food, my favorite food as long as I can find something that’s not too spicy!