Using Maps to Understand Adolescent Health Access: A summer reflection from Jane Friedman ’20

Written by Jane Friedman, Development Sociology ‘20

Summer Experience: MAPSCorps Field Coordinator at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center in New York, NY

I transferred into the Development Sociology major at the beginning of the second semester of my sophomore year at Cornell. As a pre-health student determined to help improve health care deliverance throughout the world, my interests varied from addressing the spread of infectious diseases to addressing the health disparities that existed within urban environments. I had ambitious goals and I strongly believed that the courses in the Development Sociology major would prepare me to achieve them.

Six months later,  I was home for the summer in New York City ready to start a summer job as a field coordinator as part of the MAPSCorps Summer Program at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center.  MAPSCorps, originally based in Chicago, partners with youth employment agencies in order to give young people important work experiences in which they map the assets of communities and produce useful data that can benefit these communities.  The Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center, which hosts MAPSCorps New York City program, provides free and confidential care to adolescents and young adults between the ages of 10 and 24 including primary care, mental health services, and legal services.

My assignment for the summer was to work with two other field coordinators and nine adolescents, using MAPSCorps data from previous summers in order to find “resources” in East and Central Harlem, or locations where adolescents could access mental health services, re-entry programs, and food pantries. The ultimate goal was to make a resource booklet to be distributed to young people in these communities, tracking and communicating about the 80 resources we identified over the summer. In the process, we met fascinating people from all walks of life who appreciated the work we were doing and recognized the importance of adolescent health and well being. Adolescents are the future and their health is crucial to their success in any of their endeavors. Although we endured many hot, sweaty day, sometimes walking miles or taking multiple buses and subways to visit as many resources as possible, the end product was worth it. We created a vital resource for young community members with a long life of service.

In addition to creating this booklet, we conducted a research project about community health in East and Central Harlem. Our research question focused on whether the residents of East and Central Harlem were aware of the resources available to adolescents in their communities. Based on survey data from citizens in East and Central Harlem and from the people that worked at the resources we visited, we found that many residents, including adolescents, are not aware of or do not utilize the multitude of resources available.

Throughout my time working on these projects, the disparities in access and awareness of health resources and other vital services that existed within one city were made concrete. As my home city, this issue of health inequality is of personal importance. I saw, in person, that there was a need to help close this gap in access and awareness of vital resources. Upon returning for my junior year at Cornell, I had renewed motivation to learn as much as I could about inequality, health disparities, as well as the social factors that impact health so that, upon graduation and in my career, I could make a substantive difference in health care deliverance in New York City.

The Development Sociology curriculum has given me the opportunities and resources needed to pursue my goals.  I am currently taking a course called the Sociology of Medicine (DSOC 3111) with Professor Christine Leuenberger.  In the course, we have discussed elements of social class and how they are related to health, diving into the relationship between high rates of poverty and low health outcomes. I immediately thought of disparities in access to and awareness of vital health services that were occurring in New York City that I witnessed and researched on a daily basis this summer.

It is sometimes difficult to grasp the extent of social problems when sitting in the classroom. Additionally, solutions to these problems are often presented as impossible for one person or a small group of people to carry out. However, I was able to connect my life experience to what I was learning in class. Further, if my summer experience taught me anything, it taught me that anyone has the power to make a difference in their community.


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