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MPH Candidate Colleen Madden Sets Course to Revolutionize Health Policy and Inspire Universal Change

Colleen Madden is passionate about revolutionizing public health policy. Each class, practicum placement and training opportunity has provided her with the tools to inspire change.

Colleen, an MPH candidate in the College for Public Health and Social Justice at Saint Louis University, has focused her studies on maternal and child health and preventative health care.

I’m more passionate about solving the problems that need to be solved to keep folks out of the hospitalto keep them healthy in their own homes and communities,” Madden said.

“Whether that is making sure they have the right resources (like nutritious foods and the ability to pay their bills) or the ability to get to a doctor or health care provider they can trust when they need to.”

Colleen Madden
MPH Candidate Colleen Madden.

Colleen’s passion for advocacy and serving the underserved contributed to her nomination to participate in The 2021 Student Leadership Institute through the Association of Schools and Programs in Public Health (ASPPH).

Consisting of 40+ graduate students from around the country, Colleen's position among the cohort is significant. She was first nominated by Saint Louis University faculty. She then submitted her interest and application and was selected.

The institute requires a one-year commitment and begins with a virtual program. The Student Leadership Institute provides participants with development in leadership, opportunities to create a broader network, and tools to understand how their identities and privilege can impact unconscious bias.

The ultimate goal in creating a committed cohort is to drive compassionate and inclusive change within universities and also state and federal policy. The continued engagement among cohorts throughout the year is meant to empower leaders to expand their networks and work toward positive change.

A few months after beginning her commitment in the Student Leadership Institute, Colleen also landed a significant practicum role with Generate Health this summer.

With Generate Health, Colleen participated in advocacy for policies that support racial equity, especially around pregnancy outcomes, maternal health, family well-being and community health. She helped create an advocacy toolkit to educate, empower and supply voters, community members and stakeholders with the information they need to positively influence legislators and inspire change in their communities. The position allowed her to combine her passion for maternal and child health with her passion for social justice.

“For our health systems and services to be most effective and sustainable, we need to be more proactivewith preventative measures and equitable policies instead of reactive,” she said.

Colleen sees a future where prevention is the focus and where all people have equal access to resources and support systems, especially equal access to healthy food options that meet their cultural and personal needs.

In the fall, Colleen transitioned from her summer practicum with Generate Health into her current role with St. Louis Area Foodbank as a SNAP Capacity Intern. She also serves as a graduate research assistant to the Office of Public Health Practice at SLU. After she graduates in May, Colleen hopes to continue working in nutrition, advocacy and maternal and child health.

“Through my experiences the last two years, it's become more and more apparent that everything is interconnected. Yes, we want people to nourish their bodies with healthy foods, but what if they don't have transportation to the grocery store so must instead use their neighborhood gas station?” she said. “Or what if they have a chronic disease that limits their diet, but they don't have access to a health care provider who can help? These social determinants directly impact the health of families and communities. And asking these big, intimidating questions is the first step in making our communities healthier and more equitable.”

College for Public Health and Social Justice

The Saint Louis University College for Public Health and Social Justice is the only academic unit of its kind, studying social, environmental and physical influences that together determine the health and well-being of people and communities. It also is the only accredited school or college of public health among nearly 250 Catholic institutions of higher education in the United States.

Guided by a mission of social justice and focus on finding innovative and collaborative solutions for complex health problems, the College offers nationally recognized programs in public health, social work, health administration, applied behavior analysis, and criminology and criminal justice.