Undoing Historical Trauma In Public Health Practice

1542 words - 6 pages

In one of our weekly staff meetings at the Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies (IWES), Dr. Denese Shervington, the founder of the organization launched the meeting by sharing a paper from Journal of Health Disparities Research and Practice. Before she read out more from this paper, Dr. Shervington explicitly mentioned how imperative it is for an organization to stay grounded and think deeply about the relevance of the issues raised in the reading and their impact on our work with the community. The article explores the implications of historical trauma, health disparities and social epidemiology on public health practice. I reckon in that moment in the meeting and value the sense of reflexivity and mission driven work that IWES is committed to. I was impressed by the true commitment to healing, resiliency and recovery for the New Orleans community mirrored in the determination portrayed by this conversation. I could feel the passion and the energy that each and every staff member carries in their work in bridging health disparities, standing for the underserved populations while rebuilding a resilient community.
My summer was a learning opportunity in a culturally rich city where I was able to experience the intersections of community development, public health and social justice work. One of my main goals for this internship was to gain a deeper understanding about how a community based organization engages the community while prioritizing the health of women and girls. I was thrilled after my first experience in the community through an ImPACT (Informed Parents and Children Together) session during my first week at IWES. I participated in ImPACT through one of the HIV prevention programs for youth. We visited youths in the program and engaged in conversations with their parents/guardians about HIV, STIs, safe sex, teen pregnancy and talked about starting the conversations with their children early. This was such an enlightening moment for me especially because I was able to see how the messages were being transmitted into the community and finding out the questions and concerns that parents have on these issues. As an active observer, I learned from the conversations and from my co-workers as they facilitated the discussion and provided information and resources for youths and families.
I spent the bulk of my time working on the Sexual and Reproductive Health Advocacy Project (SRHAP). SRHAP addresses the health disparities Post-Katrina and to promote sexual and reproductive health education for women and girls in New Orleans. There was a need to address health disparities after Katrina. When Dr. Shervington shared the article on historical trauma and how natural disasters heighten the susceptibility of communities to fighting disease, I was moved to learn more about the effects and relevance of the storm to the work of the Institute. I read Stories of Survival (and beyond): Collective Healing after Katrina, a collection of personal...

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