Research In Action

Research In Action

Leah Lombardi, MPH
Making A Public Health Impact, One Corner at a Time

A recurring theme throughout my public health training, in both the classroom and the workplace, is that health events do not exist in a vacuum. Instead, they are a product of many factors across our lives. Thinking about injuries (our focus here at CIRP), the Haddon Matrix provides an approach to examine them through a wide lens that reflects the public health approach as a whole: looking at the person involved, environmental factors, and the agent that caused injury at a pre-injury, injury event, and post-injury level. This comprehensive scope is one of the reasons I was drawn to this and to my team at CIRP.

As a Biology student at Boston College attempting to discern what next steps would be right for me, I remember attending a talk where the speaker shared, “While we might not be able to change the world, what we can do is change our individual corner for the better.” As I began to explore my interest in public health, I realized the work I could do “in my corner” can have a powerful impact on a larger population.

I chose to obtain an MPH in Epidemiology at Drexel University, where I was an Urban Health Collaborative Fellow. As part of this fellowship, I worked with the West Philadelphia Promise Neighborhood, which focuses on the health and education of children and families in this section of the city. This project has a cradle-to-career perspective, from early childhood through high school and into the workforce and postsecondary education. My time with the project particularly engrained in me the importance of approaching public health questions through a holistic lens.

Approaching Public Health Questions Holistically

During this time, I became familiar with CIRP, particularly Dr. Allison Curry’s team and the New Jersey Safety and Health Outcomes (NJ-SHO) Data Warehouse. The NJ-SHO integrates motor vehicle crash, traffic citation, driver licensing, birth and death certificate, hospital discharge, CHOP EHR, and geographic-level data. What drew me the most to working with the NJ-SHO is that it allows for a comprehensive examination of various public health issues: not only teen driving safety, my team’s focus, but also the potential to look at other major life events and both person- and community-level factors.

I realized the work
I could do “in my corner” can have a
powerful impact on
a larger population.

Using this warehouse with millions of records provides the opportunity for conducting analyses from a true public health perspective. Though we can look at a crash event alone, we can also look at the crash through the lens of factors at the census tract level, any prior driving citations, and medical conditions reflected in hospital discharge data, as well as others.

I began working at CIRP as a Student Research Assistant in April 2019 and am now a full-time Data Analyst. It is a privilege to be able to work on these projects with a team that has fostered my growth and provided me with comprehensive training from the time I began as a Research Assistant. I am excited to help the NJ-SHO continue to grow.