Olivia Lawson, MPH

Community Health, Health Promotion and Communication

What inspired you to study public health?

I worked with a small non-profit organization that partnered with schools in Guatemala and had a variety of programs run through the school communities. One component was to educate mothers about the importance of preconception and prenatal care, especially through proper nutrition. Education sessions focused on what types of products and food were available locally, preparation, nutrition facts, and most importantly, how and why their baby’s development could be affected. I saw both the need and desire for this kind of education and wanted to gain further experience and knowledge by studying public health.

What has been the single most rewarding experience of your career/studies so far?

I was involved with a health fair towards the start of my first semester in the MPH program. It was a great opportunity to be out in the community, interacting with both fellow students and Miami residents who were interested in learning more about how to improve their health. I enjoyed participating in conversation with community members and learning that there truly needs to be improvement in health communication and health literacy.

What is the one piece of advice you wish someone had given you when you were starting out in public health?

Get involved right away. Volunteering or working with a variety of organizations, within the different concentrations of public health, will be the most beneficial experience one can have. Even if you are certain you want to work within a specific field of public health, take the time to explore something else while in school or when starting out in your career. All areas of public health complement one another, and it will be an asset to have a comprehensive understanding of those relationships.

What do you think is the biggest challenge that the public health field should be focusing on?

Communication of the fundamental components of public health and health literacy are issues that need improvement. Through my experiences so far, I’ve noticed that people are genuinely unaware about easy healthy choices they could be making to improve their health and prevent development of illness, disease, injuries, and chronic conditions. While community health fairs are important, there must also be a broader approach to addressing this health illiteracy issue so that everyone has the appropriate information to make informed decisions about their health.