In New York State, county-based Departments of Health have a broad range of responsibilities, ranging from environmental health to disease outbreak management. Here in Madison County, improvement of family nutrition is a very important component of community health. While the area is a rich agricultural region, access to fresh wholesome foods is a problem for many families. Laura Arboleda, a rising senior at Colgate, and Upstate Institute Summer Field School Fellow at the Madison County Department of Health, has taken on the challenges of improving family nutrition in the region.
One of Laura’s projects involves developing promotional materials and programs for the Oneida Farmer’s Market to increase public awareness about the availability of fresh local produce.” We aimed to increase traffic in the market and Oneida’s downtown area during market hours as well as provide the public with a series of nutritional messages, food demos, and activities that were used to expose the public to healthy life styles.” Closely related to the Farmer’s Market project, Laura developed an educational campaign related to family nutrition, designed to empower parents to make better choices relative to their children’s nutrition. She developed a card game “….. which encourages kids and parents to learn about fruits and vegetables together. This game was developed not only for the health department to keep at hand using during nutrition bases events, but it will be also distributed to other partner agencies in the area such as WIC, YMCA, and CAP.”
Laura also assisted her colleagues with a breastfeeding connections campaign that helps educate mothers, and employers, about how to promote a breastfeeding friendly workplace. This has involved designing an educational brochure, and meeting with local employers. Finally, Laura has supported the marketing “…for other campaigns in which the department of health takes part in such as child safety car seat checks, and the annual Eat Well, Play Hard Family Fun Day.”
Laura’s experience at the Health Department has given her a broader perspective on the role that public health agencies play in communities, and the very wide range of health-related concerns that must be addressed. “When I used to think about health departments I thought of disease control, building codes, water safety. However I never realized that things such Farmers’ markets promotion, educational outreach campaigns, bike safety, and safety car seat checks were such an important part as well.”
Laura’s experience this summer has helped her solidify plans for graduate school. “I went into this fellowship really liking public health and even considering going to graduate school to get my master’s in public health, Now (although I’m not done with my fellowship) I can say I’m in love with public health and definitely going to grad school for it.” And, like other Field School Fellows, the experience of living and working in the area brings a special appreciation; “….having the opportunity to spend my summer here in Hamilton, I’ve learned to love and admire the upstate region even more.”