Taking health advocacy to the streets
Alarmed by the cars speeding through her quiet Austin, Arkansas, neighborhood, Jennifer Moreau had the aha moment that began her journey as a health advocacy warrior.
Moreau — who graduated from Arizona State University in 2018 with a bachelor's degree in health education and health promotion — knew something had to be done, and she decided she was the one to do it.
She went to her city council and asked them to install speed bumps on the stretch of road by her house, armed with research from a policy brief she had written for a health advocacy class in her online undergraduate program in Arizona State University’s College of Health Solutions. Impressed by her evidence and her enthusiasm, the council approved the funds and installed speed bumps.
Seeing there was plenty more to do to improve the health and safety of her town, Moreau ran for city council and won. That’s when she really got to work.
Her city park needed some playground equipment, so she applied for 11 different Walmart community grants and a Blue Cross Blue Shield grant and won four of them. Unfortunately for Moreau, her husband’s military orders to a new Army base in Waynesville, Missouri, necessitated a move and cut short her council tenure, but the health advocacy flame was kindled and she could see plenty of health and safety concerns in her new town.
The roads in Waynesville were terrible, Moreau said. People were driving on the wrong side of the road to avoid the washouts and potholes, causing a safety hazard. Moreau submitted a proposal to the county commissioners board to resurface a deteriorating asphalt road with high-quality surface gravel “which is much cheaper and easier to maintain than asphalt, something that’s critically important in a small, rural community where funding for county roads is practically nonexistent,” Moreau said.
This health warrior had done her research. The commissioners agreed with her petition, organized the project as per her recommendation, and finished the resurfacing earlier this month.
Moreau is now an online graduate student and teaching assistant in ASU’s psychology program. She wants to combine her health education knowledge with a deeper understanding of what drives individual human behavior to make changes that can improve health.
“In my health advocacy class, I realized I had a knack for getting things done. Health advocacy is a huge part of my life now, and I’ll continue to be involved in the government in order to make real change,” Moreau said. “I love helping people individually, but changes in policy are the only real way to truly make an impact.”
Moreau talked to the College of Health Solutions about her passion for improving public health.
Question: How are you impacting health for both individuals and your community?
Answer: Being an online teaching assistant for undergrads, I get to impact hundreds of students on an individual basis, and, although I love my job, I like getting out into the community and assessing its needs. When I see a situation that affects the health and safety of the people where I live, I try to figure out a way to improve it. I also enjoy working in the K-12 school district (where she is a part-time substitute teacher), which is another way I can impact my community in a positive way.
Q: What did you learn at ASU that helped prepare you for your career?
A: I have learned that health behavior change is a big undertaking. I want to be part of the psychological research and epidemiological studies that trace the cause-and-effect relationships of mental health and community health. I am ready to contribute more to my field of work.
Q: What advice do you have for others wanting to make a difference in health?
A: Be optimistic, and be a doer. Our society lacks leadership, and to make a real difference, you have to follow through. You are going to be told no a lot, but that does not mean it cannot be done. Keep on fighting the good fight!