College of Public Health and Human Sciences MPH student Sara Hartstein has been honored by the Oregon Health Authority for her efforts in tobacco control – a testament to her decision to continue her education in light of an already successful career in public health.
The Joe Weller Guardian Award is given to those committed to mentoring new tobacco control advocates. Sara was honored with the award at the Place Matters conference hosted by the Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention Section of the Oregon Health Authority in November. The conference addresses the growing chronic disease epidemic in Oregon and risk factors and conditions that drive it.
“It is an honor; however, I would not have received this award had it not been for my health department support system and community partners who have worked hard over the years to protect people from secondhand smoke, prevent people from starting tobacco and help people quit,” says Sara, who currently serves as a health policy specialist at the Benton County Health Department (BCHD).
Initially a tobacco prevention and education program coordinator, Sara has expanded her responsibilities to also address other topic areas through a policy, system and environmental approach.
Among her many achievements in tobacco prevention, Benton County continues to be a state leader in advancing systems and policy solutions that reduce tobacco use and other related chronic disease.
Sara wrote and led advocacy efforts for the 2013 Benton County tobacco-free facilities policy, which includes all parks, natural areas and fairgrounds. She also worked to update county and city ordinances to address e-cigarette sales to minors and prohibit use indoors in 2014. Corvallis and Benton County were the first jurisdiction in Oregon to pass a comprehensive smoke-free workplace ordinance and adopt tobacco retail license systems in the late ’90s.
“Coordinated efforts among public health and health care have the potential to positively impact health outcomes for our communities in a way we haven’t seen before.”
Her efforts have helped organizations such as Samaritan Health Services, Linn-Benton Housing Authority and Oregon State University implement similar smoke-free policies, and she has been instrumental in securing funding to implement the Mid-Valley & Coast Tobacco Prevention Initiative funded through the Oregon Health Authority’s Community Prevention Program and Strategies for Policy and Environmental Change.
“My main goal is to continue to build and strengthen our partnership among public health and our Coordinated Care Organization,” she says of her BCHD position. “Coordinated efforts among public health and health care have the potential to positively impact health outcomes for our communities in a way we haven’t seen before.”
In addition to working at the BCHD, in 2008 Sara began taking courses – one class per quarter – toward earning an MPH with a focus on International Health. She plans on graduating in 2015.
“I chose the MPH-IH program because it has an approach to public health that I thought would best expand upon my previous experience,” she says. “Although I may not work internationally for some time, the critical public health lens can be applied in every setting, including here in Benton County.”
She hopes to add to her skill set and expand her thinking about social and political factors that determine health on a global scale.
“Studying in the CPHHS has added depth to my ability to do the work required in this position,” she says. “I would strongly encourage students – no matter their MPH track – to take international health classes, especially those that encourage students to think critically and consider the larger social, economic and political factors that influence health.”