Early Weeks in Jones County, Iowa

by Casey Semons

Background: Jones County is in the Northeastern region of Iowa with a population just over 20,000. With a public health department only officially establishing itself outside of the hospital setting just a few years ago, there is a need for growth and development. The team works extremely hard and does great work for the citizens of Jones County. With the Community Health Needs Assessment-Health Improvement Plan (CHNA-HIP) in motion, there was opportunity for student interns to assist with the collection, analysis, and presentation of primary health data.

After spending my first year of graduate school listening to lectures, reading textbooks, critiquing others’ work, and all the other tasks a graduate student does, I felt like I was ready to apply my knowledge in a real-world experience.

When given the opportunity to be an intern for the Jones County Public Health Department, I knew I would be able to put my knowledge and skills to the test.
One of my main responsibilities in this role is to assist with the CHNA-HIP for Jones County. I had previously learned about the purpose and importance of CHNA-HIP in my undergrad as a Public Health student, and more recently in my MPH program. Being in the epidemiology sub-track has generously helped me in improving my data collection and analysis skills. To expand my education and skills further, I decided to pursue public health epidemiology and to be more involved with the community.

I’ve been able to connect with the community on several different occasions, which has been a great learning experience for me. Jess, my supervisor for the internship, held a Community Health Needs Assessment meeting where different stakeholders came together to review questions we created based off their health interests. It was helpful to discuss these questions with them because we received an outside perspective and improved our public health communication skills.

Another project we have been focusing on for the past few weeks is the Catalog of Services. Jones County offers many services to the citizens, however, many people must travel elsewhere, such as Cedar Rapids, to receive health care. I did learn how resourceful and connected this community is, though. There are many local services that assist with needs such as food assistance and clothing assistance. So, Andrea – another MPH student working with the Jones County Public Health – and I received a large binder of different services within the area – including everything from pamphlets to business cards – and input all the information into an Excel sheet. From there, we filled in the gaps for missing information and started creating a cohesive Word document that includes all the services!

I entered the MPH Epidemiology program at the University of Iowa eager to learn about public health practice and using community engagement to solve public health issues. As the first few weeks of my internship come to an end, I have already learned a plethora of skills that I know I will carry on into my future role as a public health professional.

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