Pairing students and faculty with real-world public health policy projects. Connecting Students with Policy and Community-Based Practice
At a glance
Key Features
  • Opportunity for student participation in a research project on a public health policy or practice issue
Useful for
  • Obtaining real-world experience in public health policy and community-based research
Available to
  • Harvard graduate students interested in committing 1 month to 1 semester on a project

The Community Health Innovation and Research Program (HC-CHIRP) at Harvard Catalyst offers opportunities to Harvard graduate students who are interested in working on a policy research or practice project for a current public health issue.

Students will get:

  • real-world, policy- or practice-relevant experience
  • a stipend
  • the opportunity to work with a Harvard faculty member as their project advisor

Projects can be as short as a month, or can take an entire semester. Projects arise from the needs of HC-CHIRP's community partners, which include the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Boston Public Health Commission, as well as a range of community-based organizations.

Examples of Policy Projects:

  • Competitive Foods Regulations
    The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) was required by the legislature to produce regulations, but lacked the capacity to research practical aspects of implementing the competitive foods provision. HC-CHIRP conducted a review of the experiences of other states to explore questions such as: Will schools lose money on nutritionally compliant food? Will milk consumption be reduced? This review demonstrated that there were ways to implement the regulations without negative impact on school finances or milk consumption. HC-CHIRP will soon begin an evaluation of the impact of the new regulations on student health.
  • Food Policy Council
    Massachusetts recently passed legislation to start a statewide Food Policy Council (FPC) co-chaired by the Departments of Agricultural Resources, Public Health, and Transitional Services. HC-CHIRP has conducted background research regarding best practices; has reviewed farm-to-school initiatives in other states with a short growing season similar to that of Massachusetts; and has evaluated existing data on effectiveness of farm-to-school programs.
  • Medical Marijuana
    Massachusetts is considering legislation to legalize the medical use of marijuana, but there are concerns about the implementation and safety of the legislation, and in particular its impact on teen consumption. HC-CHIRP provided a review of the literature, and a summary of the experience of other states in legalizing marijuana for medical use. Both will be used to help legislators weigh options and make evidence-based decisions.

Examples of Practice-Based Projects:

  • Safety Net Infrastructure Initiative
    Based at the community health centers participating in the Safety Net Infrastructure Initiative, students are involved in working with clinical and administrative staff to implement a research and/or quality improvement project as identified by that health center. Current projects include: formative research on teen health needs and their access to primary care in Lynn; building a framework for youth violence prevention among the Cape Verdean community in Dorchester; and a quality initiative comparing services, processes, and outcomes of a behavioral health-pediatrics integrated program with other programs at the Dimock Center in Roxbury. Students are integrally involved in multiple aspects of each project - preparing IRB applications, literature reviews, tool development, data collection and analyses, as well as creation of information products and a dissemination strategy.

To find out more about project opportunities with HC-CHIRP, please contact Jennifer Opp.