by Rachel Voorhees“The suburbs are looked at as ideal neighborhoods, but they hide a lot of the pressing issues in pockets within the suburbs.”—Tonya D. Samuel
According to the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease, more than half of Americans have at least one chronic disease and 75 percent of national healthcare spending goes toward treating them.
For more than a decade, Tonya D. Samuel, Ed.D., has been working to bring awareness about chronic diseases, such as heart disease, obesity and diabetes, to communities around the country.
An assistant professor at Adelphi University’s College of Nursing and Public Health as of Fall 2013, Dr. Samuel is able to bring the field experience necessary to make students aware of the reality of public health.
Most recently, she worked for two years as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland, where she analyzed patterns of disease (epidemiology). Prior to that, she was a senior program manager and innovations fellow at the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health in Brooklyn, New York (2005-2009).
Her work in inner cities, in which she has primarily focused on people of color, has shown major inconsistencies in public healthcare.
“There are assets in communities that need to be utilized,” Dr. Samuel said. She explained that while public healthcare in some areas may be lacking, it’s important to look for existing resources in the community that can be used to positively affect health.
Dr. Samuel—who earned an Ed.D. in Health and Behavior Studies at Teachers College, Columbia University (2008), and an M.S.P.H. in Epidemiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago (1996)—has been a leader in implementing programs in areas of need. Some of these include offering health education, giving residents the opportunity to participate in research and assessing community healthcare needs. She has visited residents of these areas in non-traditional settings, such as churches and beauty salons, to determine what they know already about diseases and to assess room for improvement.
“Despite living well, [people] still need to recognize that their health could be improved,” Dr. Samuel said.
As it turns out, cities are not the only areas prone to public health issues. According to Dr. Samuel, the suburbs have similar problems. “The suburbs are looked at as ideal neighborhoods, but they hide a lot of the pressing issues in pockets within the suburbs,” she explained.
Public health issues and intervention methods for all types of communities are covered in Dr. Samuel’s Community Assessment in Public Health course. Additionally, she teaches Social and Behavioral Issues in Public Health, where students have the opportunity to learn about cultural factors in public health problems.
“[These courses] allow me the opportunity to help grow the public health program at Adelphi,” Dr. Samuel said. “I want to be a part of putting the Adelphi College of Nursing and Public Health on the map.”