Once a week, Beyond Boulders runs a five-question interview with either a first-year Schweitzer Fellow or a Schweitzer Fellow for Life (ie, a Fellow whose initial year with ASF has been completed, but whose commitment to lifelong service continues).
Today, we talk with 2003-04 Boston Schweitzer Fellow Lindsay Rosenfeld. While a student at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and a Schweitzer Fellow, Rosenfeld trained professionals at multiservice organizations and community health centers on health literacy and helped them develop literature at appropriate reading levels for their clients.
Now a Research Fellow in HSPH’s Department of Society, Human Development, and Health; an Associate Research Scientist at Northeastern University’s Institute on Urban Health Research; and an Adjunct Faculty Member at Northeastern University’s Bouvé College of Health Sciences; Rosenfeld remains committed to working with underserved populations. She answers our five questions below.
Why did you develop your particular project?
My Fellowship year took place during the time I was pursuing a masters of science in public health. The Fellowship allowed me a space to focus a project on health literacy methods that I had only seen in research, but which I and my mentor felt were absolutely applicable in the field.
When I brought the idea to La Alianza Hispana, a multiservice organization in Roxbury, Massachusetts, where I had been doing some work, they were also really interested in the prospect; that is, they were also really interested in the idea of applying health literacy assessments to written materials as they were being produced.
This practice is much more common now then it was 5+ years ago, especially for extremely busy multiservice organizations. I worked with La Alianza Hispana on creating and reviewing materials and I also did health literacy trainings for staff.
What was the lasting impact of your project on the community it served?
Since there was no time for a formal evaluation, I can’t be truly sure of the lasting impact, but we did complete several materials (whether new or reviewed). These materials, which were at more appropriate literacy levels for La Alianza participants, were being used in programs as well as being made available at the organization. The materials were plain language, had more graphics, and were more culturally relevant. We also found more materials in Spanish or translated materials when we could not find them in Spanish.
What do you think is the most pressing health-related issue of our time, and how do you think it should be addressed?
That’s an extremely tough, and often, loaded question. Generally, I think one of the most pressing issues is getting us to think with a public health lens – if we were more prevention-oriented, I believe we would be a lot better off. (Geoffrey Rose still has a lot to teach us!)
Related to this are the issues on which I focus, which I believe are extremely important at tackling this prevention-oriented framework. I focus on traditionally non-health policies and programs that impact health: urban planning and design, housing, neighborhoods, education, (im)migration, health literacy. Planning prospectively for these issues helps us to prevent negative health impacts and foster positive ones.
What was the most surprising element of your experience as a Schweitzer Fellow?
The most enjoyable and surprising elements of my time as a Schweitzer Fellow were twofold: the incredible learning from my time with La Alianza Hispana, and from the other Fellows. I really enjoyed getting to know the other Fellows and learning about their diverse work.
What does Albert Schweitzer’s legacy mean to you, and how have you carried it with you since your initial year as a Fellow drew to a close?
I honestly didn’t know much about Albert Schweitzer before my time as a Fellow. I appreciate the guiding premises of a ‘life of service’ and ‘my life is my argument’. I think these are strong words for lives of service and principle and that they can be molded to fit a wide variety of service pathways.
I enjoy my continued connection to the Fellowship – especially my time interviewing new applicants each year. I am always thrilled by potential projects and connections between Fellows. More importantly, I am reinvigorated by the colleagues who also find ways to live lives of service when there is so much that pulls our attention in so many directions.