Access denied: Health Sciences prof explores availability of health resources

Amy Dailey

Gettysburg College health sciences Prof. Amy Dailey has spent her academic career examining the availability of cancer screening for underserved populations. However, her interest in understanding barriers to access doesn’t stop there.

Dailey’s passion for public health has proven to be a great asset for Gettysburg College. Over her three years as a faculty member, she has cultivated the public health component of the health sciences department, and was recognized by the American Public Health Association for her efforts to improve students’ information literacy with public health resources.

An academic foundation

Dailey received her MPH in epidemiology from Tulane University and her Ph.D. in chronic disease epidemiology from Yale University, with research focusing on questions of socioeconomic status and access to cancer screenings, especially mammograms.

Amy Dailey“While studying at Yale, I started to think about the reasons that women with a lower socioeconomic status are more likely to die from breast cancer. That thinking led to the topic of my dissertation which examined the link between where a woman lives and whether or not she receives regular mammograms,” said Dailey.

Before coming to Gettysburg, Dailey was a faculty member at the University of Florida where she received a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) grant to expand her research on a national scale. Using Census and CDC data she confirmed that the more disadvantaged a woman’s neighborhood, the less likely she receives regular mammograms, independent of her own insurance status or income.

During her time at Gettysburg, Dailey’s research has evolved to include projects on colonoscopies and cancer survivorship.

Passion for public health

In addition to teaching epidemiology and global health at Gettysburg, Dailey has taught public health since 2010 – the first time that topic was offered as part of the health sciences department. Since then, she has done everything in her power to provide students with the necessary tools to be knowledgeable about and interested in issues of public health.

Dailey received a Johnson Center for Creative Teaching and Learning grant to improve the College’s public health course. With the grant, Dailey worked with Meggan Smith, reference & instruction librarian at the College’s Musselman Library, to improve students’ information literacy in public health.

Using the semester-long project on obesity in her public health class as a guidepost, Dailey and Smith worked to better equip students to digest and analyze data on the obesity epidemic, so they are well informed about what is already known and what is being done, and can thereby form their own thoughts about a solution to the epidemic.

Their efforts landed Dailey in an article on expanding undergraduate public health education in the American Public Health Association’s newspaper, “The Nation’s Health.”

From “The Nation’s Health”:

Students not only should be able to communicate both orally and in written form through a variety of media to diverse audiences, but they also should be able to locate, use, evaluate and synthesize information.

Amy Dailey, PhD, MPH, an assistant professor of health sciences, said she has used the critical components to help shape the introductory public health courses she teaches at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania.

“The very first time I taught my public health course, I assigned a systematic review paper on a topic of their choice, and I realized, when reading their papers, they weren’t very well-equipped to find reputable public health information and sources,” Dailey told The Nation’s Health. “On top of that, they had a hard time interpreting the science.”

Dailey now assigns a semester-long project, using obesity as a theme. Students first complete a descriptive review, then examine existing interventions and eventually develop an intervention themselves.

Read the full text of the article.

Dailey will present the project on improving information literacy in undergraduate public health coursework at the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting in October 2012, and Smith and Kelly Ruffini ’14, a globalization studies major, who has taken both Dailey’s public and global health classes, will join her to present on the same topic in April for the Association of College & Research Libraries.

“I feel fortunate that as an undergraduate student I had the opportunity in Dr. Dailey’s class to conduct the level of research I did, to write a grant proposal, and to participate in peer reviews,” said Ruffini. “All these experiences will be a huge benefit to me beyond Gettysburg whether I go on to graduate school or pursue a career in public health.”

Food insecurity close to home

During her time at Gettysburg, Dailey moved beyond her focus on cancer screening when it came to thinking about access and underserved populations, and also began to consider issues of food insecurity. She didn’t have to look outside the local community to find families having trouble putting healthy meals on the table.

Partnering with Gettysburg College’s Center For Public Service, students, and local community organizations, Dailey has worked on research related to the impact of the Adams County Food Policy Council’s Healthy Options program.

The Adams County Food Policy Council seeks to provide more people with access to safe, nutritious and affordable food while supporting the local economy. They accomplish this by providing farmers’ market vouchers for low-income families and offering a series of workshops, farm tours, and classes promoting nutritious lifestyles.

Dailey’s research has examined the success of the Healthy Options program, how the local community is attacking food insecurity, and how people who fall into the “food gap,” not qualifying for food stamps, but can’t provide their families with nutritious meals, are affected.

“Working with Prof. Dailey on projects related to Healthy Options was great because she was so willing to get the college students involved, and she also tailored the project to reflect the needs and wishes of the Healthy Options participants,” said Emily Constantian ’13, and environmental studies major and religious studies minor. “After I graduate I hope to go on to work for an organization that works towards solutions for food insecurity, specifically in rural areas, and my experiences with Healthy Options have definitely influenced that.”

Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.

Contact: Nikki Rhoads, senior assistant director of communications, 717.337.6803

Posted: Mon, 8 Oct 2012

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