On wanting to have three walls up

In a just a few days I will be making my way down to the sunny (fingers crossed) Southern tip of Texas with the PHAST spring break program. This trip won’t be your average spring break, even though spending a week away from the bitter Michigan cold and eating all the tacos I can muster seems pretty close.

Over the past couple of weeks as my partner and I have been preparing for the work we will be doing with the UT Brownsville’s Tu Salud Si Cuenta Campaign, I have been growing anxious over the responsibility of doing meaningful community based public health work in such a short period of time.  Tu Salud Si Cuenta targets the rising prevalence of obesity and diabetes in Brownsville by training and deploying community health workers to teach the community about proper nutrition and physical activity. They achieve this through home visits and nutrition and physical activity classes including Zumba. The campaign also broadcasts segments about nutrition on local tv stations, assists communities in environmental restructuring to promote physical activity and establishes local farmers markets.  Our task will be to use our vast knowledge of public health theory to do content analysis on their promotional materials and create a promotion video about the reach and impact of the campaign, which will be used in presentations or social media.

We have one week to accomplish all of this, in an unfamiliar culture, and neither of us speak Spanish.  Needless to say, I am a bit nervous. Whenever I feel that the task ahead is too great or that two first year public health students couldn’t possibility be successful in such an endeavor I remember one of my favorite short stories by Dave Eggers.  “On wanting to have three walls up” is about a man who sets a goal to build at least three walls of a playhouse by the time his wife gets home in an effort to make her proud.  We, like this man have little time to achieve our goals but it isn’t about building all four walls and completing the project.  It’s about bringing our passion for public health to the table and building at least three walls that will not only help the community we are serving but bring pride to our University of Michigan SPH family.

My nerves are far exceeded by my excitement about getting to work with such an amazing public health campaign and to shadow team members on their activities in the community.  It is an invaluable experience to get to work with a community based program that practices CBPR (Community Based Participatory Research) so effectively. I can’t wait to dive in and get to work!

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