Uba Backonja, Project HealthDesign Ph.D. in Nursing Student, University of Wisconsin-Madison
I could not have asked for a better summer. I repeated this often during the six weeks I spent in San Francisco with the iN Touch team. I meant it wholeheartedly then, and I still feel the energy and excitement now that I am back in Wisconsin.
Having worked with the National Program Office at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for nearly three years, I’ve been able to experience Project HealthDesign from the macro level. When I was given the opportunity to spend my summer with Kathy Kim and the iN Touch team at San Francisco State University, I jumped on the opportunity to get an intimate, first hand, micro-level experience with one of the project teams. I knew about the amazing work they were doing, using iPod Touches to facilitate health coaching for overweight and depressed adolescents in San Francisco. But that knowledge was gained from a distance and from reading about the project. Needless to say, I was ecstatic to spend my summer in San Francisco.
Almost as soon as I arrived to the San Francisco State University Health Equity Institute, I met the inspirational Kathy Kim, iN Touch principal investigator. She gave me the rundown of what I would be doing, after which I had the opportunity to see iN Touch in action. I shadowed three amazing project team members in action at a San Francisco high school — Health Coach Kehinde Apara, Project Manager Holly Logan and Research Assistant Janelle Charles.
Seeing them working so well with the students, school administrators and each other left a lasting impression. What was even more powerful was the opportunity to witness the health coaching setting. Watching Kehinde work diligently with each of the students to address their tailored goals, while taking into account their needs, abilities and limitations, was transformative not only for me but also for the students.
Teens who were initially quiet opened up during the sessions, their excitement building as they worked more with Kehinde on their personalized goals. Teens who were energetic and open were bursting with pride when they told Kehinde that they had met and exceeded their weekly goal. Each participant was motivated and driven to take on a challenge for the next week, with smiles on their faces and springs in their steps.
I’m excited to see how the project continues to positively impact the lives of these teens in San Francisco, and how the program can be applied in the future elsewhere. I learned so much from the teens and from Kehinde, Holly and Janelle. The one thing I can say for sure right now is that I could not have asked for a better summer.