Learning About My Community Through Data: Reflections on My Summer at ICH

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By Grace Chan
Tufts University MS in Nutrition/MPH Candidate

My summer as the Data Analyst Intern at the Institute of Community Health (ICH) has been an enriching experience. ICH has provided me insight into the world of quantitative data as well as taught me more about the communities surrounding metro-Boston – both aspects I wanted in a summer internship.

Before joining ICH in May, I finished my first year of graduate school at Tufts University.  As a MS Nutrition/MPH student, my goal is to gain more knowledge about the role of nutrition interventions in preventing chronic diseases. I want to gain skills in epidemiology and biostatistics in order to understand the complex interactions between nutrition, environmental exposures, and health behaviors that lead to various health outcomes. Having lived in Boston for less than a year, I decided to stay here to complete my summer internship rather than go home to California, in order to learn more about the community I am now a part of.

I first heard about ICH through a course at Tufts.  I was intrigued by the work ICH does in collaboration with local communities, and was excited to see a data analyst internship position available for the summer.  At ICH, I have had the pleasure of working on the Everett Data Book Project with Lisa Arsenault, Blessing Dube, Kelly Washburn, and Reann Gibson.  We worked with the Everett community representatives, Jean Granick, Bob Marra, and Jamie Stein, to compile a health assessment data book, detailing the health of the community’s adult and youth populations. Once completed, the data book can be used to inform the development of community programs and promote policy change.

During the internship, I learned to access data from various sources, such as MassCHIP, the Massachusetts Department of Education, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Furthermore, I learned to analyze surveys such as the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).  I gathered data of interest to the community members from these sources, organized and cleaned the data, and created charts that display the information in usable and meaningful ways.  Additionally, I participated in meetings with the Everett community representatives and made further improvements to the charts based on their feedback.  My team gave me a lot of support and guidance, plus the independence to explore the data and create charts from information I believed the community would find important.  They also offered me opportunities to present the data, most notably, to the larger work group in Everett that represents various sectors in the community.
As I reflect on my time at ICH, I know that I’ve gained valuable knowledge and skills that I will use in my future endeavors.  For example, I am more comfortable working with (and less intimidated by) large data sets.  Also, I developed a keener eye for detail and gained lots of experience working in Microsoft Excel.  Most importantly, I experienced collaborating with community members whose insights give more meaning to the data.  Overall, I am glad to have spent my summer with the wonderful members of my team.  I enjoyed getting to know my ICH team members and the Everett community.  It has been rewarding to be able to contribute to the process of creating the data book, and I cannot wait to see the final product!

Learn about the ICH Internship Program

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