How do I sort through all these plans?

It’s open season. That’s right. If you plan on enrolling in an employer-based health insurance plan, you have approximately two weeks to choose an insurance plan that is supposed to help you cover potentially thousands of dollars in medical expenses. Oh, and by the way, that plan itself will likely cost you thousands of dollars over the next year just to be enrolled in it.

Depending on your employer, you may have just a few or a ton of plans to choose from. For example, the list of health insurance plans for federal employees residing in Maryland is more than four pages long. Between premiums, deductibles, co-pays, co-insurance, and tier 1/2/3 prescriptions, who has time to calculate medical expenses for their family for an entire year? …

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I had a rude awakening when I transferred from the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Charlotte to the more prestigious UNC-Chapel Hill my junior year. Like a smack in the face, I was immediately hit by how much harder UNC-Chapel Hill would be, and not just because of the more rigorous academics. UNC-Chapel Hill has a reputation that creates pressure to perform at top level, and as a transfer student, it was even more difficult because I had not been trained to do so since my freshman year, as most of my Chapel Hill classmates had been. Additionally, coming from a racially diverse circle of friends and student body in Charlotte made me feel awkward on campus in Chapel Hill, because the majority of the student body there is Caucasian. I still remember my first day of class at UNC-Chapel Hill. It was a linguistics course, the whole reason for my transfer, and I was excited beyond belief. When I walked into the classroom, I immediately felt like the class was staring at me — as if they were asking themselves what I was doing there. I realized after five minutes of being uncomfortable that I was the only student of color in the room. Even in my Spanish Linguistics core classes, I was in the minority. Coming from a Dominican family, I would have thought there would be more people who looked like me in that class. Immediately, I started to feel like I did not belong, not just in my classes, but at the university. Even today, two years later, something as simple as making eye contact with someone on campus triggers thoughts like “What do they think of me? Do I look like I’m a student here? Do I look like I deserve to be here?” Though I worked incredibly hard to get to where I am today, I can’t help but doubt myself because I simply feel that I do not fit in. It’s a classic case of imposter syndrome. …

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of mental health issues is a psychiatric ward. Why wouldn’t that be the case? In all my years of watching television and reading novels, those prison-like institutes have been a popular backdrop for addressing mental health issues, so it makes sense that I never thought of my own issues with stress and anxiety as being comparable to mental health illnesses I’ve seen in the media. I wouldn’t think of myself as an example of one of “those” people who needed to be treated in a hospital for what I thought of as the “normal” stress I was experiencing. …

This is the first post of my “Perspectives” series, in which I work with others to describe public health issues from their points of view. This blog comes from the perspective of Alina Fortunato, an Afro-Latinx senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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Ninety-eighth percentile. When this statistic comes to mind, one can’t help but think of excellence. Well, as a child I was excellent at being big. I was in the 98th percentile for height and weight and looked twice my age simply because of my size.

Coming from a Dominican family wrought with health problems (it took my uncle’s cancer diagnosis to start a conversation about healthy food), my mother was always aware of my size, as was I, and she made sure to keep an eye on my eating habits. I can imagine that she was trying to prevent me from developing Type II Diabetes or becoming obese like many of my family members, who have subsisted off of a consistent diet of white rice and meat for their entire lives, and who are unfortunately not alone in their health issues. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2015–16, 47.0% of Hispanics and 46.8% of non-Hispanic blacks were obese, the highest rates out of all ethnic groups measured. I was lucky to have a mother who read enough and did enough research to know how to help me. Many of my extended family members didn’t have someone like her. Many of my other family members moved to the States well into adulthood and are not fluent in English. Perhaps they have had a hard time finding information on eating better in Spanish; in my experience, the majority of information regarding healthy eating habits has been in English. In contrast, my mother immigrated to the US when she was eight years old and is completely English/Spanish bilingual, so accessing information on healthy habits was easier for her. Additionally, much of my extended family settled in low-income areas in and around New York City, where there weren’t many options for affordable fresh foods. In the US, they also had easy-access to fast food and other cheap junk food that was not available in the Dominican Republic. When I was 7, my mother moved us out-of-state to a suburban middle-income neighborhood, which affected our food choices in a positive way. …

I am pleased to share Public Health Impact’s statement on breastfeeding support in our workplace (beta version). I hope that we can be part of a “new normal,” where mothers do not have to make the choice between their careers and providing optimal care and nutrition for their babies.

Mother co-working with her infant

Children are a welcomed and a cherished part of the Public Health Impact’s work environment. In recognition of the well-documented health advantages of breastfeeding for infants and mothers, Public Health Impact provides a supportive environment to enable our staff and contractors (team members) to breastfeed and express their milk during work hours. …

GOOOOOOOOOLLLLL! No, not that type of gol. But a gol and your program goals are similar in that everything is structured around achieving that goal, or gol. To evaluate your initiative, you must first know what you want to accomplish. Sounds simple, right? If you manage a program promoting some kind of social benefit, you’ve probably had to write up some goals at some point. However, many fall into the trap of setting activity-focused goals: “Hold three webinars. Host a meeting with 100 participants. Onboard 500 new clients.” If you outline activities before the goal, it’s easy to end up with goals focused on activities rather than on your organization’s mission. …


What just came to mind? A necessary activity just slightly between filling out your tax forms and dealing with your local cable provider on the pain scale? That 25-page report that you haven’t gotten around to reading and is on the verge of being repurposed as fireplace kindling? Evaluation doesn’t have to be daunting or painful. In a recent training to a group of non-evaluators, I distilled evaluation into six manageable steps.

1. Define goals

It might seem obvious, but in order to evaluate your project or initiative, you must first know what you want to accomplish. I’ve been surprised at how many times “We should do a webinar!” has come up without the team first thinking critically about how a webinar would contribute to their ultimate goal. …


Alison Mendoza-Walters

Consultant on using data for social change | avid traveler, bicyclist, and nomnomnivore | lifelong learner | new mom |

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