In part because of my practice experience with vulnerable populations around the world, I am most interested in studying how poverty, economic development, and economic opportunities impact the physical health of communities and the health decision-making processes of individuals. My professional experiences with vulnerable communities in Nairobi and Kiambu counties in Kenya and with rural and urban areas of Missouri and Kansas have led me to understand that the competing demands of poverty have a very real impact on people’s health, regardless of culture and geography. It seems that the more precarious our circumstances, the less likely we are to make decisions that will provide for healthy futures.
I was fortunate to work with experts in the fields of micro-enterprise and individual development accounts (IDA), and these experiences gave me insight into how resources (financial and personal) impact the choices we make around diet, preventive medicine, and sexual health. My aim now is to understand how households view the resources (human capital) available to them – their jobs, savings, education, and social connections – and how they choose to mobilize those resources for future success. When resources are few, what takes first priority? With a bit of extra money, how do families decide whether to put it in savings, see a doctor, or educate their children?
Some of the questions that interest me include: (1) understanding the relationship between economic vulnerability and health behaviours and outcomes; (2) the mechanisms under which wealth moderates health risk taking behaviour; and (3) the generational economic impact of chronic illness. At the policy level, I wonder: do policies recognize and adequately address issues of households at the confluence of poverty and ill health?
My practice and research experiences have given me a solid background from which to teach community development, policy, and research courses both at the bachelor and graduate levels. Many of the classes I teach are focused on U.S. social policy, where I find that my experiences as an international social worker provide me with a unique perspective from which I help students navigate the comparative elements of social policy. As a community practitioner, I particularly enjoy opportunities to teach community development courses as these equip social work students with the skills needed to create strong social and political networks, and leverage those relationships for meaningful social change.