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Health, Policy, and Politics: A New York City Summer

By Perrin Braun

Tufts University, September 4, 2012

I was thrilled when I received notice back in April that I had been selected as an ACS fellow in New York City. As a native New Yorker, I was very excited by the opportunity to spend a summer making a positive contribution to the city that had done so much for my intellectual, creative, and emotional growth.

Through the program, I spent the past few months working as a health policy intern at the New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM), which helps to advance the health of people in cities. As a medically-oriented non-profit organization, NYAM addresses the health challenges facing the world’s urban populations through interdisciplinary approaches to policy leadership, research, evaluation, education, and community engagement. My work at NYAM was focused on strengthening the systems that prevent disease, promote the public’s health, and eliminate health disparities in New York state.

At NYAM I worked specifically with the Obesity Prevention Coalition and Policy Center in the Division of Health Policy, a statewide obesity prevention effort funded through the state’s Department of Health. I am a masters’ student in public health and nutrition, beginning my second year this fall, so I was thrilled to spend my summer working on projects that directly pertain to my career and course of studies. I was eager to better understand health disparities, social determinants of health, and policy interventions for health improvement, and I was pleased to be placed in an organization that had such a relevant mission.

This summer was an especially exciting time to be working in the New York health policy arena. I had the opportunity to research controversial issues, including aspects of the Affordable Care Act (aka ‘Obamacare’), New York City’s proposed ban on large sugar-sweetened beverages, and marketing in schools, among others. Through this research, I learned more about state and city policymaking practices and priorities, and the impact that health policy has on every New York resident. It was extremely gratifying to work with NYAM staff—all of whom were intelligent, passionate, and articulate about their belief that the health care system should be serving the common good. Thanks to my internship this summer, I became even more convinced of the value of public health work, and was finally able to put into practice all the theoretical knowledge that I have learned at Tufts.

My most meaningful experience at NYAM centered on Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to ban the sale of large sugary beverages. I composed testimony that was read to the New York Board of Health by the president of NYAM, urging the Mayor to invest more money in food stamps and anti-hunger campaigns in lieu of a ban. This experience taught me the value that evidence-based literature can have on public policy, as well as helping me to hone my writing skills for a very specific audience of policymakers. As a student of public health and policy, I found it very rewarding to know that something I had written might have a tangible effect on people’s lives.

This opportunity would not have been possible without the generous funding and support of Tisch College and Tufts University. The Tufts staff and alumni have been so encouraging and motivating throughout the entire summer, and I am extremely grateful to everyone at Tisch College who supported me in this integral first stage in my career as a public servant. My summer at NYAM has been such a fulfilling learning experience, and it has helped me become a much better writer, researcher and thinker.  I hope to “pay it forward” to the next generation of students!

Perrin Braun was one of five fellows to participate in Tisch College’s Active Citizenship Summer (ACS): New York. Expanding to New York for the first time this year, the program established unique fellowship opportunities thanks to the generous support of New York area Tufts alumni. Each fellow was given a stipend for their work and placed at a non-profit identified by the Tufts donor.

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