Program Manager – Integrated Services, Center for Chronic Disease Prevention & Health Promotion
14 years of service
Got any favorite quotes?
It is not defeat that destroys you; it is being demoralized by defeat that destroys you. - (famous international ex-cricketer and the current Prime Minister of Pakistan)
Who inspires you?
My public health colleagues who are committed and devoted to move the needle on our health outcomes in Oklahoma.
If someone was interested in a public health career, what advice or encouragement would you give them?
Oklahoma’s health ranking is currently 47th in the nation and that is primarily because of the health disparities across our state. If you have a passion to help develop population based public health programs that could reduce those health disparities and ensure health equity, then you are a good fit for public health and public health is a good fit for you.
What is the most rewarding experience you have had in public health?
I think it is difficult to pinpoint one single experience but I would give a much broader response. It is really rewarding when we effectively use public health data to facilitate meaningful and evidence-based decision making for A) planning and implementation of public health programs and B) to evaluate those programs at a later time to see how well they functioning to help reduce the burden of chronic diseases in Oklahoma and promote the wellness of Oklahomans.
How did you start working in public health?
My first experience in public health was in 2004 with the Acute Disease Services when I did my public health fieldwork required while pursuing my Master of Public Health degree. After completing my Master of Public Health degree in health policy and epidemiology in 2005, I accepted a position with the OSDH as an epidemiologist for the Oklahoma Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.
Can you share a few highlights of your experience in public health in Oklahoma?
It has been my privilege to be a part of a number of public health initiatives over the years to improve the health of Oklahomans. After I first arrived at OSDH, I led the effort to evolve the Oklahoma Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (CDC) into a more holistic healthy homes program. In 2009, the CDC selected our proposed project as one of six sites in the nation for CDC’s two-year healthy homes pilot program. Through this project, we partnered with the Children First Home Visiting Program (Oklahoma’s Nurse-Family Partnership program) in Tulsa to address a broad range of environmental and safety hazards, unintentional falls, and poor indoor air quality within substandard housing conditions. That idea was then replicated and expanded across other parts of the country, especially as the 2010 Affordable Care Act that created the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV). I am very proud of the fact that the work we did in Oklahoma solidified Oklahoma’s role as a model for states across the nation.
I was also part of the team that worked on the crucial policy change which resulted in the $1 tax increase on cigarettes in 2018. This was an important step to reduce the number of smokers in Oklahoma, in particular youth and to save the lives of Oklahomans. As you know, tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in our nation.
Another highlight is working with a wonderful team of statewide and national partners to help design, plan, and implement the TSET Healthy Living Program developed to prevent tobacco use, improve access to healthy food and reduce sedentary lifestyle in Oklahoma. It is important to know that these three behaviors: tobacco use, poor nutrition, and sedentary lifestyle contribute to four major chronic diseases – Cardiovascular Disease, Cancer, Diabetes and Lung Diseases which result in 64% of deaths in Oklahoma.
In your role, how do you educate people about public health?
In my role, educating people about public health occurs in a variety of ways, including presentations, fact sheets and technical reports. One of our key strategies is to use public health data which have been systematically collected and analyzed to inform the general public, local communities and decision makers within those communities, stakeholders and policy makers about the burden of high-risk behaviors and their implications in terms of chronic diseases, poor quality of life and reduce life expectancy.
What is the most difficult part of your job?
I think that would be educating people about those upstream non-medical factors that we call social determinants of health. One of my favorite “let that sink in” fact is that social determinants of health can drive as much as 80% of health outcomes. That also means only 20% of the remaining health outcomes are influenced by the clinical interventions within health care settings and yet we see a big disparity in funding and investment of resources between public health field and the healthcare field. It is really imperative that public health in Oklahoma partners with the health care as well as with programs that offer social and human services in order to address these upstream non-medical factors to create a collective impact.