Editor’s note: The following Q&A is one of several featured in this week’s Wellness, Part 1 issue. Additional Q&As will appear in next week’s Wellness, Part 2 issue.
Ameena Batada, co-director of the UNC – Asheville – UNC – Gillings Master of Public Health program in Asheville, discusses community support, her work to address health inequities and the power of friendship.
How does your research directly impact the health of our local community?
Most public health research I work on is driven by communities and organizations in Asheville-Buncombe, and as such, the findings have implications for the well-being of people in this area. Evaluation research helps organizations to obtain funding to continue their health and other services, education and more. Collaborative surveys support communities and coalitions to advocate for policy changes, such as transit improvements, child care access and youth tobacco marketing restrictions.
How has the pandemic impacted your advocacy in advancing health equity and justice?
I’ve really missed meeting and working in person with community partners these past few years. That said, I think the pandemic illuminated some existing injustices, which opened up opportunities for institutional decision-makers to engage in conversations and approaches to address health and related inequities. Funders also seem to be more aware of the criticality of community leadership and creativity in program and research proposals. The pandemic further cracked, but did not crumble, entrenched systems of oppression.
What is your go-to activity when stressed?
I like to get outside or to meet up with a friend. Getting outside, whether in a wooded area by a stream or for a walk down my street, encourages me to breathe more deeply, connect physically with the world and check in with how I’m feeling. Being with a friend can provide perspective and support. Plus, we almost always laugh together, which is good for my body and soul.
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