Name, Age: Alyssa Llamas, 22; Hosna Safi, 22
University, Major: Alyssa: UC San Diego, Human Biology; Hosna: International Studies.
Region: North America
Length of stay: N/A
Type of Work: Medical/Public Health
Tell us about the nonprofit/social business you work for:
getPHYT.org (Public Health for Youth and Teens) is a public health blog catered to youth, teenagers, and young adults. By disguising public health in pop culture, we hope that our readers can learn some important public health information from getPHYT. Our mission is to raise public health awareness among youth and teens so that in turn they can raise awareness among their peers and communities. We’re actually working on the website from two different locations: Billings, Montana, and San Diego, California. So far, this hasn’t been a problem since we email, text, and call each other almost hourly.
What’s your typical day like?
Alyssa: I am a full-time CDC Public Health Associate and have been assigned to work at the Rocky Mountain Tribal Epidemiology Center in Billings, Montana. I work on getPHYT after work and on the weekends. I save any articles I find that could be useful for getPHYT.
Hosna: I am an intern for the Institute for Behavioral and Community Health and I’m working on community-based participatory research. We’re focusing on cancer prevention and physical activity amongst Latina women. After my internship, I usually work on getPHYT as well. For getPHYT, we probably work around ten hours each a week. We have to research information and make sure we are giving correct facts to our readers.
What inspired you to do this kind of work? If you are taking a gap year, what motivated you to do that?
Teenagers remain the most vulnerable age group in the United States, as many struggle with issues such as smoking, drinking, reproductive health, and obesity. However, despite the alarming number of problems, not many have attempted to educate this group in a way that will make them actually listen. We also wanted to bring to their attention other public health issues such as environmental health and emergency preparedness that teenagers may not think apply to them but are still very important.
We realized that there isn’t an online resource center specifically for the youth and teenagers that talks about Public Health in a way that makes its understandable and applicable. Blogs have become widely popular among the younger generation, so we thought the best way to present public health information was through a blog. We want the blog to be both entertaining and informative.
What kind of special skills do you need to do your job?
Web design, Writing, Social media
Do you feel like you are making a positive, critical impact on the global community?
We definitely feel like we’re making a positive impact. It’s hard for people, especially teenagers and youth, to want to read a health-oriented blog. Because we try to make getPHYT.org as entertaining as possible, we have shown our readers that public health is interesting, useful, and that there is so much to learn. Many of our readers have told us that they are learning while laughing, which is a great thing. Public health is all about prevention. Through getPHYT.org, we want to encourage our readers to be more health-conscious. We want to prevent health problems, before we’re forced to have to solve them.
What have you learned about the nonprofit and social business world in your experience?
Everything takes time. As much as we wanted getPHYT to become an overnight sensation, we realized that it is going to take a while for getPHYT to become established. It’s very important for us to network and to promote our website as much as possible.
Do you think you make a unique contribution to your organization as a young person? Is your perspective or approach different from others?
Yes, I think since we are two young people. We can relate to our readers and make the website particularly relevant to the age group. We don’t try to talk to our readers in a professional way, nor or are we talking down to them.
How do you see this experience fitting into your long-term goals?
Alyssa: I know that I want to be a public health professional, but since the field is so big, I wasn’t sure what to specialize in. getPHYT.org has helped me realize what I truly am passionate in. I want to work with young people (high school/college) and focus on public health education and social media. Since I have to do research for all of the posts, I’m learning more about public health. Through getPHYT, I’m learning what works and what doesn’t work when presenting public health information to the younger population.
Hosna: In the future, I would like to have a career focusing on child and maternal health, so this has been a great experience for me. It’s taught me how vulnerable adolescents are to poor health practices and how important it is to educate them early on.
Alyssa: I’m currently in a two-year public health program with the CDC. I definitely want to continue working for the CDC as long as possible. I also want to go to grad school to get a masters in public health.
Hosna: I will hopefully be going to grad school for public health next fall, so right now I am trying to make the most out of my gap year!
What is one thing you wish you knew before you came to your position?
We wish we knew how much passionate we were about public health and that we wanted to have careers in public health.
Do you have any advice for prospective gap-givers?
Find something your passionate about. Make sure whatever program you choose is a perfect fit. If the program or social business you want to be involved in doesn’t exist, then create it. Talk to your friends and see if you have similar interests and maybe you guys can start something together. Also, network, network, network!
Are you blogging about your work or travel? How can we stay in touch?
We would love our readers to comment on the site. We would love to hear what public health topics people are interested in and want to read about.
Would you be willing to take questions from potential Gappers?