Each year the Public Health in the Rockies Conference provides an opportunity for education, networking and skill development for public health professionals in Colorado and neighboring regions. The conference is also a great opportunity for Colorado School of Public Health students to see the work that is being done in the public health field and to learn from community health workers, physicians, policy makers, epidemiologists and mental health professionals. The theme at this year’s conference was Equity and Social Justice: Innovation at Elevation. ColoradoSPH provided funding for 6 Colorado State University students, and ColoradoSPH at CSU provided funding for 2 students to attend this year.

Carolina Mariano Ferraz, who received funding from ColoradoSPH to attend the conference, is in her last semester of her MPH in Public Health Nutrition. Her favorite talk was Restorative Community Engagement: Creating Space to Share Power by Sedona Allen and Angel Smith. The talk was about finding your own voice and power to then represent others and help raise others’ voices.

“It spoke to how we engage communities in sharing and using their power and how we best represent them. It related to my passion to help undeserved communities succeed” said Carolina.

Her biggest takeaway from the conference was the idea of finding your authenticity, raising your voice, and using your power to seek justice and to bring people together.

Kacie Hutton, who received funding from the ColoradoSPH at CSU to attend the conference, is an MPH student in the Physical Activity and Healthy Lifestyles concentration.

Kacie’s favorite talk came from Jason Vitello from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. He spoke to the mental health challenges that men face, and the implications of societal pressure to “be a man” and keep emotions and problems to themselves, rather than seeking help from friends, family or mental health professionals.

“He had awesome suggestions, shared some captivating data, and most of all had a call to action, which was to encourage open and honest relationships with the men in your life and to also inspire younger boys to express their emotions, even though it may not be the social norm” she said.

Overall, Kacie said it was powerful to be in a room with a wide range of ages and professions who were all banning together for the same cause.

“Public health people aren’t always recognized, but we are vital to the health of our communities” she said.

Kat Kowalski in the Animals, People, and the Environment concentration also received funding from ColoradoSPH. Kat’s favorite talk of the weekend was Data Visualization Tools for Informing Public Policy: CHI’s Health and Climate Index because it highlighted how we can translate data into something that is easily understood by the public, which can help inform the decisions we make about health.

“I am particularly interested in the health of the environment and how that affects the health of people, so this talk was inspiring because it got me thinking about what I might be able to work on in the future” said Kat.

Kat was also amazed by how well all the presenters were able to incorporate the health equity theme of the conference into their presentations. Even for topics that she normally wouldn’t think of as an equity issue, such as suicide prevention, the presenters were able to tie it back to the theme and argue how health equity could be improved in those areas.

Carolina, Kacie and Kat were all thankful to have attended Public Health in the Rockies this year and walked away feeling inspired and excited about their own work in public health. The conference allowed the students to actively engage in the newest public health research and initiatives and highlighted the many different areas of public health.

Written by Megan Jansson