SARAH VERBIEST

Looking Forward , Sarah Verbiest, founder of Every Woman Southeast, reflects on the new year and what it holds.

This month we’re featuring Mirine Dye, a Program Manager for Urban Health Partnerships and new member of the Every Woman Southeast Coalition.

How long have you been in your current position?

I joined Urban Health Partnerships (UHP) and our corporate arm Urban Health Solutions (UHS) in May of 2012. This EWSE grant project is my first venture with our non-profit arm, UHP.

What brought you to the organization and your current work?

The UHP Executive Director, Anamarie Garces, and I teamed up a few years ago to represent our graduate school of public health (Florida International University) in a Student Scholar Competition, which we placed third Campus wide. I then had the opportunity to put together a team to participate in the American Public Health Association Maternal Child Health Leadership Institute and felt Anamarie and I would be great team members. Our state project for Florida involved intersecting public health preparedness, epidemiology and maternal child health. We gained national recognition and remained in contact over the years. She reached out to me after forming her company and invited me to consider participating as a collaborator, and my grant funded position at the time was winding down so the timing was perfect. I came on board to assist with any projects that needed more staff, and was encouraged to seek grants in our areas of interest.

What are you most excited about for the Transportation Access Throughout the Life Course project?

I am most excited about the opportunity to creatively intersect two areas of public health, which usually do not get much attention together. Transportation and particularly active transportation (walking, biking, safe streets as well as public transportation) have been increasingly seen as not only a public health issue, but a public policy and urban planning focus. When we consider “access to care” usually the number of clinics or the number of providers and the cost is what comes to mind. We are looking at a broader view of access to care, meaning, how do women age 15-44 (and men) get to the clinics which are targeting them with reproductive and preconception care services? Miami-Dade has several areas of concern within this age group relating to reproductive health, and we want to see how do they access the services which are offered, and what improvements can be made. Are there plenty of bus routes or safe sidewalks? Are the areas shaded and comfortable for women and families in the Miami heat? What about bike routes for men and women to access the clinics easily? Are clinics and clients aware of these options? How easy is it to access information or plan your trip without a car? These are the questions we hope to answer with our project.

What do you anticipate will be the biggest challenge with this project?

I think we will have a couple of challenges; the first challenge being how can we engage our non-traditional health partners in this topic? We have reached out to our planners, engineers and transportation partners and we are at the beginning stages of the formation of the steering committee. I know we will have to sell them in the first meeting in order to ensure long-term participation and interest. The second challenge will be to create a marketing outreach campaign to translate our findings, and get the information into the hands of those who plan clinics and can influence street and transportation improvements.

Can you share any great books, articles, websites, etc, that would help people learn more about urban planning or transportation and the intersection with health?

Although I was not involved with this particular UHP project, I feel that the Broward Complete Streets Initiative was particularly influential in my recommendation to seek grant support for our Transportation Throughout the Life Course project. I would definitely recommend visiting the website BrowardCompleteStreets.org which then has other resources available as well. We have also set up a website for our project, and hope to list many references to help both transportation and maternal child health groups understand the significance of taking MCH out of a silo, and inserting MCH into the bigger picture of urban health and planning: Transportation4Families.org.

I am currently reading Making Places Healthy: Designing and Building for Health, Well-being and Sustainability, edited by Andrew Dannenberg, Howard Frumkin and Richard Jackson, and would recommend it for a practical, yet comprehensive, systems-level look at the built environment and health.

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