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Meedan is excited to have Jenna Sherman on board as our Digital Health Lab Program Manager! Learn more about her in the short Q&A below.
Before arriving at Meedan, I completed my Masters of Public Health at the Harvard T.H. School of Public Health where I concentrated in Maternal and Child Health. While completing my masters, I worked both as a science writer on the Health Desk team at Meedan and as a researcher on a project studying the health outcomes of infants born to incarcerated women. In addition, during my Masters I co-founded a student group called Students Against COVID-19, focused on providing accessible, visual content on the latest COVID-19 information online, and also wrote on the side about media misinformation and making medicines more accessible amidst the pandemic. Before my Masters, I worked on developing accessible drug pricing policies for a project at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, advised governments globally on ethical policy frameworks for AI, and researched access to quality information and health resources of Brazilian women during the Zika epidemic. In college, I studied community health and peace and justice studies.
For two years, I worked as a rape crisis counselor at the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. In my first role, I served as a medical advocate in which I would go in person to hospitals to meet with survivors reporting sexual assault in order to advocate for them and provide them with referrals and relevant health and services information. In my second role, I worked as a hotline responder for the Center’s Incarcerated Survivors Support Program, where I took calls for survivors who were currently incarcerated in order to provide them immediate crisis support and resources for ongoing healing.
These roles significantly shaped my views, my work, and my overall life. While I was immersed in movements against sexual violence and trauma healing prior to these roles, working one-on-one with individuals really shed a light on how important both individual and systemic work is when it comes to sexual violence and other public health challenges, and how to make systemic work more realistic and pragmatic. It also made me more aware of the necessity of good quality and highly accessible health information, particularly in acute times. I’m grateful to be involved in such high-level, high-impact work at Meedan and other public health positions, but my work at the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center helped me realize how important it is to me to always be engaged in some way in individual-level work as well.
The global public health community has so many thoughts about this! As has become evident, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the stark inequities that exist within healthcare across the world. Since the start of the pandemic, who has been most likely to get sick and die has been significantly determined based on income, race, geographic location, and other demographic factors. Originally touted as “the great equalizer,” it couldnt be clearer that the pandemic is anything but. This tagline is especially ironic as the pandemic operates in many ways as climate change and other challenges on earth do: the whiter and wealthier are most likely to perpetuate the problem, while the rest of the world is more likely to suffer from it.
These same inequalities have extended (as many saw coming) to vaccine access, creating a situation in which wealthy countries are already planning to roll out boosters while many countries, particularly in the Global South, are barely far along in their initial vaccine distribution. All of this is indicative of the need for radical change in our healthcare system, which the global health community has been pushing for, but has fallen short of both due to internal reasons (eg. not prioritizing health equity enough in our work) and external ones (eg. lack of trust in health professionals and science).
The pandemic has brought the urgency of healthcare accessibility to the forefront – particularly as other areas of health like reproductive, mental, and chronic health suffer as the pandemic wages on – but in order for it to stay an urgent priority our thinking needs to shift to it as a long-term plan rather than a short term fix. We should be using the pandemic as a model for how we can approach healthcare accessibility long-term. I think strengths and potential solutions lie in distributing resources more equitably, localizing solutions, and improving health information quality.
Quite literally, the Digital Health Lab Director, Nat Gyenes! Nat was my mentor when I was an intern just out of college at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, and we’ve stayed in touch ever since. When the Health Desk project started last year, Nat and I spoke and I was privileged to be brought on board as a science writer. Given that the Health Lab work was the perfect intersection between my passions for public health, digital rights, and information accessibility, I was highly enthusiastic about the possibility of staying on and jumped on the possibility to do so! The Health Desk team is one of the most brilliant, kind, and welcoming group of individuals I’ve worked with, and it’s such a gift to be able to continue to work with them in this new role.
I’m really thrilled about the work that we’re currently engaged in with social media companies to help them better address health misinformation online. Health misinformation has been a significant challenge during the pandemic and has been evidenced to worsen morbidity and mortality overall as well as spread at high rates – rates faster than truths. As a result, it’s crucial to carefully monitor and moderate online platforms to ensure that health information is as high quality and low risk as possible. However, in reaching this goal, we also want to help platforms 1) avoid over moderation, and 2) work on creating platform environments that are higher quality in content from the onset, thereby proactively creating healthier online ecosystems and ideally mitigating the need for stringent moderation. Engaging in this work from a public health perspective is really exciting to me, and I’m thrilled that platforms are eager to be working towards this end as well.
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