Building Youth Job Readiness and Self-Efficacy through Health Impact Assessments

Author: Camille H. Anoll
Date Posted: October 30, 2019

In summer 2019, a hundred Philadelphia youth learned the power of data through a piloted summer learning experience by the Urban Health Collaborative (UHC) at Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health. The UHC has partnered with WorkReady, Philadelphia’s job readiness, skill-building, and leadership program, to provide skill-building experiences for the youth in the program to collect, understand, and leverage data to advocate for their communities. The UHC led a six-week program introducing the participants to the concept and process of health impact assessments (HIAs). HIAs are systematic analyses that identify the possible impact of a proposed policy, plan, program, or project on the health of a population. HIAs leverage multiple types of data sources and solicit input from stakeholders and residents. HIAs have emerged as a strong participatory research tool that communities can use to assess a new policy or practice’s impact on residents and to advocate for what a community needs to maximize their health (National Research Council 2011).
Each week of the six-week series focuses on a different phase in the HIA process: screening, scoping, assessment, recommendations, reporting, or monitoring and evaluation. Participants brainstormed the potential health impacts of a development project in their neighborhoods, searched for available data on a neighborhood from Open Data Philly, and practiced presenting recommendations to policymakers. Through this series, participants developed skills that could be marketable for future employment, were introduced to fields that promote the pursuit of higher education, and, most importantly, gained the ability to assess needs and advocate for change in their communities. Civic engagement has been shown to be important in building youth self-efficacy and resilience (Zimmerman, Ramírez-Valles, and Maton 1999), so having skilled advocates is important not only to the community, but for the young people as well. 
This program also created an opportunity for Drexel students to build skills. Drexel graduate students worked with the summer learning series, gaining the experience of engaging with community youth, training groups on health analysis skills, and evaluating learning models. 
National Research Council. 2011. “Improving Health in the United States: The Role of Health Impact Assessment.” Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
Zimmerman, Marc A., Jesus Ramírez-Valles, and Kenneth I. Maton. 1999. “Resilience Among Urban African American Male Adolescents: A Study of the Protective Effects of Sociopolitical Control on their Mental Health.” American Journal of Community Psychology, 27 (6): 733–751.
The Urban Health Collaborative at Drexel University is the Philadelphia partner in the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership, a network of local data intermediaries in more than 30 cities, coordinated by the Urban Institute. All partners ensure communities have access to data and the skills to use information to advance equity and well-being across neighborhoods.

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