Once Katie Key began looking at the participant data, some themes emerged. Among them was that moms needed help getting diapers. Huggies may not seem like a public health priority, but healthy babies are, and so is supporting maternal needs. So, while analyzing data from eligibility and intake forms as part of her capstone project with the North Colorado Health Alliance’s First Steps/Prenatal Plus Program over the summer, Katie learned about the diaper situation.

Katie, a second-year MPH student in the Global Health and Health Disparities concentration at the ColoradoSPH at CSU, presented her overall findings, including the expressed need for diapers, at a Prenatal Plus meeting “and the results sparked conversations about why the data showed what it did and ways to change that,” she explained. “Specifically, the meeting attendees discussed why diapers was one of the top resources participants said they needed help obtaining. From that, the attendees discussed the potential need for a diaper drive and/or diaper bank for Weld County.”

Through analyzing more than 475 forms from 2013 to 2016, Katie was able to present the North Colorado Health Alliance a clearer understanding of the population served by the First Steps/Prenatal Plus Program. The analysis will be used to change outreach and marketing to better serve women enrolling in the program, she said.

“Our First Steps/Prenatal Plus Program has been in Colorado over 20 years and here in Weld County for a number of years, but in 2012 it became something the NCHA took on,” explained Rachel Artz-Steinberg, MPH, care management supervisor at the NCHA and Katie’s preceptor for her capstone project. “However, we didn’t have the funding for a baseline to understand the population we’re serving, so the idea for her project was to really organize the data so we’d have a deliverable to look at the population we’re working with.”

Katie said her interest in maternal health grew from her involvement with a program called She’s the First during her undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin – Madison: “She’s the First raises money – primarily through engaging and empowering high school and college chapters – to send girls to school in communities around the world where there is a gender inequality in school attendance and completion. The organization is called She’s the First because these scholars are more often than not the first in their family/friend group/community to receive a secondary education.”

In fact, during her First Steps/Prenatal Plus data analysis, she learned that many of the program applicants expressed an interest in finishing high school or earning a GED and taking college classes. She said she hopes that the analysis findings will be used to benefit expectant and new moms, and that not only her capstone research but her MPH education have emphasized to her the importance of listening.

“I have learned that it is not only important to actively listen as a student but also as a community member and public health professional,” she said. “I believe listening is crucial when trying to build meaningful relationships, such as engaging volunteers, and it is also important when trying to better understand communities you are working with.”