This is the first in a series of conversations with BUILD awardees in celebration of National Public Health Week. 

Public health departments are a cornerstone of well-being in our nation. They play a vital role in the community-driven, multi-sector partnerships that are central to our mission at The BUILD Health Challenge® to achieve just health outcomes for all. In celebration of National Public Health Week this week, we would like to highlight the important work that public health agencies have done, and continue to do, as an integral part of their BUILD community, as well as the people behind that work. 

Hannah Hardy, MPA is the director of the Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention Program at the Allegheny County Health Department. Her collaborative focused on addressing social determinants of health and improving access to healthcare for populations experiencing disparate health outcomes in Pittsburgh, PA during the second BUILD cohort. 

What was your role within your BUILD collaborative? Why did you and your health department decide to get involved in the BUILD project in your community?

I was the health department representative for our BUILD collaborative. When we first saw the BUILD opportunity, we immediately reached out to community partners to identify a good fit for this program. The BUILD opportunity presented a rare opportunity to focus on addressing the social determinants of health with the unique perspective of putting the grassroots, community-based organization in the leadership role. Our health department supports that work and we saw this as a way to develop and build our partnerships with community-based organizations with the goal of reducing health disparities. Our BUILD Collaborative focused on addressing the needs of some of the most vulnerable members of our community in partnership with healthcare.

Building on the last year, which included a racial justice movement, a global pandemic, and a growing economic divide, how do you think public health will be impacted going forward? What do you see your role, and the role of the local public health department, being in this change?

I think (and hope) that public health will be more front and center in addressing issues including the racial justice movement, global pandemic, and increasing economic divide. Other practitioners will borrow public health’s multi-sectoral way of working in which we strive to bring together a lot of different people, organizations, and institutions to focus on the messages of primary prevention. I see my role as continuing to push myself, my team, and my partners as much upstream as possible to think about the root cause of the issues that we are addressing and then to respond accordingly. It is vitally important for me as a public health professional to continue to exercise my advocacy muscles to fight for equality.

What is one thing you wish people knew about the work you do?

Working in public health is the hardest, but also the most rewarding, work of my career.

 

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Adam Britton is an intern with The BUILD Health Challenge. He will graduate from the University of Maryland in May 2021.