|Scholarship Boosts Crawford's Aspirations to Help the Poor Live Healthier Lives
April 18, 2011
Contact: Bill Giduz
| Ashley Crawford '11
Growing up in inner-city St. Louis, Ashley Crawford '11 witnessed the negative effects of poverty on human health. This coming summer, as a participant in the national Barbara Jordan Health Policy Scholars Program, she'll have an opportunity to work toward an improved situation.
"A lot of people in my family have health problems like high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol," said Crawford. "Growing up, I observed that the neighborhood grocery stores didn't have wide selections or very fresh produce, and there were a lot of fast food outlets and liquor stores around. I didn't think much about it until I went to high school in the suburbs. There I noticed nice sit-down restaurants and high-end grocery stores where you could buy fresh, healthy food. That frustrated me."
Crawford, a biology major with an ethnic studies concentration, has focused her studies at Davidson on the structural basis of health disparities. She has written papers on obesity in the African-American population, the impact of stress on high infant mortality rates in African-American women, and the role of cultural competence in preventing HIV/AIDS. "Part of the reason why the poor have more health problems is because there are policies in place that make it more difficult for them to live healthy lives and get health care," Crawford said.
The 11-week Barbara Jordan Health Policy Program is funded by the Kaiser Family Foundation and based in Washington, D.C. Crawford and the half-dozen other students selected as Jordan Scholars will be interns with congressional leaders, focusing on health policy issues affecting underserved populations. In addition to gaining experience in a congressional office, the scholars will participate in seminars and site visits, and write and present a health policy research memo that addresses a problem of concern to disadvantaged populations.
Crawford plans to work with Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee. She hopes to learn more about current federal health policy programs and get a better understanding of how health policy programs are created and implemented at the state level.
In the fall she will continue to pursue her interests in health care and social justice as a one-year volunteer for the Westmoreland Volunteer Corps. Through the program, she will be an intern at Sasha Bruce Youthwork, which is one of the largest and most experienced providers of services to impoverished, homeless or abused youth in Washington, D.C. "I'm hoping to gain some insight into the struggles of poor and homeless youth and learn how to engage them and their families in preventative care education," Crawford said. "Ultimately, I want to inspire young people to discover their potential and realize that they have a role in shaping their communities."
At Davidson, Crawford has explored her interests as a volunteer at the Ada Jenkins Community Center Free Clinic and on a Davidson Abroad trip to Ghana, where she compared therapies of traditional herbalists to the orthodox practices of medical doctors.
"A lot of my opinions changed in Ghana," she recalled. "I was thinking about becoming a physical therapist because my dad has had a stroke. But through hours of observation and study of public policy issues, I have realized that a lot of ills are preventable, and my interests have turned more from treatment to prevention."
Eventually she wants to pursue a master's degree in public health. "I've witnessed a lot of the root causes of health disparities in my own community at home, and I think that makes me more passionate about it, more dedicated to trying to understand and address it," said Crawford. "My dream is to impact things on a policy level so it'll have a positive effect on larger number of people."
She recognizes the importance of prevention in public health, and the necessity for better health education and programs to promote physical activity. Crawford tries to live the healthy lifestyle she promotes. She played three sports in high school, and has participated in club-level volleyball and intramural basketball at Davidson. She has been learning more about good nutrition, and tries to get a full night's sleep.
Her interests in equity also led Crawford to support The Davidson Trust as vice-chair of the Student Government Association's External Affairs Committee, which successfully raised more than $20,000 at the Dinner at Davidson to create the first Student Government Association Davidson Trust Scholarship.
She appreciates the support she's received at Davidson from Professors Verna Case and David Wessner in the biology department, and Kristie Foley in medical humanities. "One of the reasons I chose to come to Davidson was the strong support for students," she said. "That certainly has been my experience. My professors have written recommendations for me and sent me information on internships and other programs. I've even been to Professor Foley's house several times, just sitting on the front porch talking about life and where I'm going."
Wherever her career takes her following this summer's Jordan Scholar experience, it's likely that Crawford will help nourish better health for those around her.
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation established the Barbara Jordan Health Policy Scholars Program at Howard University to honor the legacy of former Foundation Trustee and Congresswoman Barbara Jordan and to expand the pool of students in the field of health policy who are interested in issues affecting racial and ethnic minority and underserved communities. As a member of the United States Congress and the Texas State Legislature, Barbara Jordan's distinguished career was exemplified by her advocacy on behalf of vulnerable populations.
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,900 students located 20 minutes north of Charlotte in Davidson, N.C. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Through The Davidson Trust, the college became the first liberal arts institution in the nation to replace loans with grants in all financial aid packages, giving all students the opportunity to graduate debt-free. Davidson competes in NCAA athletics at the Division I level, and a longstanding Honor Code is central to student life at the college.