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Alumna sheds light on health inequities to help transform public health in Solano County

This story is part of a series highlighting Berkeley Health Online alumni in public health departments.

It’s no secret that social and institutional inequalities contribute to wide disparities in health outcomes among Bay Area residents. Solano County, in particular, is one of the most racially diverse counties in the nation, yet has the highest rate of people living below the federal poverty line. The County also has one of the highest rates of housing burden in the Bay Area. According to a 2018 snapshot, approximately half of its residents spend more than 30% of their income on rent, which affects their ability to spend money on other necessities such as food, transportation and medical care. Public services are vital to this community to achieve health equity for disadvantaged populations.

To address these challenges, dedicated individuals and partner agencies work together to promote health for all of Solano’s residents — one of them is Solano County Public Health’s Tara Scheuer. As an Epidemiologist, Tara, MPH, ‘17, uses research, data and evaluation to shed light to the health inequities that Solano’s community members face, as well as embed health and equity considerations in public health policies and practices.

What inspired you to pursue an MPH?

I had been in the workforce full-time for six years before deciding to pursue my master’s degree.

I was interested in increasing my skills with relevant knowledge, and decided to take the online route so that I could remain working while in school.

I was able to stay motivated during the program because I was genuinely interested in everything I was learning. What I was studying in school was usually immediately applicable to my job, which harmonized both aspects of my life.

The on-campus/online program helped expand my knowledge of epidemiologic methods and public health practice and taught me how to approach my work using a healthy equity lens in both global and local contexts.

Why did you choose Berkeley Public Health Online?

The School of Public Health’s reputation and my geographic proximity were two top-selling points. I knew that I would receive a quality education from a school surrounded by innovation that challenges the status quo and focuses on addressing the social determinants of health. Although the majority of the program is online, it fosters community and engagement with faculty and peers, and I had the option to take a class on campus if I wanted to.

My favorite class was “Evaluation of Health and Social Programs”. It was one of the most useful courses I’ve taken and I refer to my materials from this class often. “Health Policy and Management” was another challenging yet necessary course, considering that much of our work in the County has shifted to policy-related efforts.

By the time I completed the program, I had access to a large and diverse professional network, discovered true friends, and gained a genuine love and pride for UC Berkeley.

How have you made an impact?

My practicum was a research and data analysis project on pertussis disparities by ethnicity. It was a collaborative effort between myself and several mentors who taught me about data analysis, writing abstracts, presenting my findings, and putting data to action. We were able to present the findings at the American Public Health Association (APHA) conference in 2018.

Now I’m a part of Public Health Administration, where I support a wide range of programs, such as communicable disease control, maternal and child health initiatives, and tobacco prevention and education. Because Solano County is among the nation’s most ethnically diverse areas, understanding the root causes of racial and ethnic disparities in health has been essential to the work that we do. I am dedicated to helping transform our public health practices to eliminate health inequities in our community.

To learn more about online academic programs at Berkeley Public Health, visit the Public Health Online program page.