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A Community-Focused Approach to Public Health

Jay Budd's headshot

January 21, 2021

Jay Budd, a master’s in public health (MPH) with a minor in Public Health Emergency Preparedness student in the department of Community Health & Prevention at the Dornsife School of Public Health, has a unique background that led him to the field of public health. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree from American University, he spent six years teaching grade school in San Jose, California as well as middle school special education in Washington, D.C.

Teaching exposed Budd to the many social issues that kept students from thriving. “Through the relationships that I built with my students’ families and service providers, I learned about many complex factors that impacted my students’ well-being,” said Budd. “I wanted to work directly with families and communities addressing factors that impacted them outside of the school system.”

When it came time to select the right MPH program for himself, Budd decided on Dornsife because of its specific mission and opportunities to gain practical experience. “I chose Dornsife because of the focus on health as a human right, the emphasis on practice opportunities, and their broad network within Philadelphia,” he said.

Now well within his second year in the MPH program, Budd is combining his experiences in education and community outreach by supporting the West Philadelphia Promise Neighborhoods (WPPN) project at the Urban Health Collaborative (UHC) as a Masters Research Fellow. In this fellowship that began in October 2020, his primary duties are gathering and organizing data for several data management systems and contributing to the creation of community-based health indicator topic briefs.

The WPPN project, led by Félice Lê-Scherban, PhD, MPH, Training Core Co-lead, and Amy Carroll-Scott, PhD, MPH, Policy and Community Engagement Core Co-lead, intends to create a “cradle-to-career” continuum of support for children who live or attend school in the Promise Neighborhood while creating a system of service linkages focused on educational, health, and behavioral health services and programs.

Budd also completed his Applied Practical Experience (APE) at WPPN where he worked with Samantha Joseph, MPH, PhD Candidate at Dornsife, and Danny Galpern, MPH, Research Assistant, both at the UHC, to support the creation of a digital dashboard that maps COVID-19 vulnerabilities. This dashboard includes an interactive city map that helps identify areas in Philadelphia that are at highest risk for COVID-19 and its longer-term impacts.

Specifically, Budd’s role was to create the dissemination plan for the dashboard to best reach key decision-makers and community leaders. “When meeting with community members, I was able to see the positive responses and excitement about having access to specific data for their neighborhoods,” he said. “It was rewarding to know that what we created would be used by community leaders and service providers to further their work within West Philadelphia.”

Budd is a big proponent of making public health data available and user-friendly for all. “The need for accessible data and statistics to contextualize the lived experiences of residents in a neighborhood is what drives me to do this work,” he said. “Community members and leaders are the experts on their communities’ needs and experiences, and academic institutions like Drexel and the UHC have the resources to provide quantitative data to support those experiences.”

In addition to his fellowship at the UHC, Budd is working on his Integrative Learning Experience (ILE) at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s Bioterrorism and Public Health Preparedness Program. He is working to update and revise their community outreach strategies for when emergencies occur.

In the future, Budd hopes to put all his training and practice to work to serve under-resourced populations. Originally from the northeast region, he hopes to remain in Philadelphia after graduation.