Amanda Mancuso is a Health Communications MPH student graduating in December 2013. She is married, has two children, and has lived in Fort Collins all of her life. She loves it here; camping, hiking, snowshoeing, hanging out on the river, the changing seasons, and all the other wonderful things Colorado has to offer.

She began the program after working for 10 years as a social worker in child protection. She had a great experience, however she knew from the beginning it was not something she wanted to do the rest of her life. During that time, she had the opportunity to reflect on her values and discovered what was really important to her.

“I knew that I wanted to help the community become healthier. Not using medicine, but through learning how to live more simply and naturally.”

Public Health’s preventive approach seemed like a great fit for Amanda. The first year of the program provided an overview of what Public Health is all about, community assessments, programs/campaigns, evaluation, etc. It was eye opening for her to discover the differences in how to approach a group verses an individual. Her thinking had to shift. The wide range of what encompasses “public health” is not only reflected in the classes, that are ever expanding, but in the diversity of interests of the students.

This past summer Amanda traveled to Norway and worked on an organic farm. She spent two weeks learning about organic practices and how to eat what the land provides. This experience was invaluable to her and was directly related to her Practicum work with Larimer County Extension. She been a part of a team, including CSU and Extension, contracted to complete a Food Assessment for Pueblo County, Colorado. Resident surveys, stakeholder interviews, and focus groups helped paint a picture of the current health and buying practices in Pueblo. In addition, GIS maps were created to show areas of different demographics and their location in respect to local farms. Mini reports of the findings will be the deliverable when the project is done.

The goal is to help improve the overall health of the community by increasing fruit and vegetable consumption and to connect the local producers, stakeholders, and community members together. The overarching theme is not only to get people to eat healthier, but to interest individual to want to know where their food comes from.

Her practicum could have easily been turned into a capstone project; however she wanted to extend herinterests and passion to her own community. So, she began working on a volunteer basis with The Growing Project (TGP) in Fort Collins. The Growing Project helps to build community gardens throughout the area and give people tools to grow their own food. Moreover, TGP helps to increase food security by bringing excess food at harvest time to the food bank and other people in need.

TGP is a non-profit organization whose mission is to “promote the value of a strong, diverse, and just local food system to all residents of Northern Colorado through direct agricultural experiences, education, and advocacy”. Amanda wrote a grant to the Colorado Health Foundation for the Growing Project and will complete some preliminary evaluation of their program for them this fall.

“The Masters in Public Health was exactly what I was looking for as a person who was interested in the bigger picture. The program is evolving and flexible enough to allow people with many different interests pursue their passion. The icing on the cake is that we are in beautiful Colorado where health is a community value and we have fun doing it!”