December 27, 2011

Doctoral student

Jess Edwards

Jess Edwards

Edwards examines a malnourished girl in Apante, Nicaragua.

Edwards examines a malnourished girl in Apante, Nicaragua

“Health and its accompanying issues, from the exotic to the mundane, shape our world,” Jess Edwards says.

“Health is a prerequisite for development on every level, from personal development through education to economic development through employment and innovation. Disease and poor health limit opportunities for individuals and societies, especially among vulnerable populations. Public health removes these barriers.”Edwards works to decrease the burden of disease among vulnerable populations – including refugees, children, workers and the poor – by measuring the health effects of environmental exposures and public health interventions.

Along the way, she says, she had the opportunity to “link faces to the data points” – the malnourished child in Nicaragua who was cared for by volunteers and returned to normal weight and to school, the older Peruvian woman who worked to end domestic violence in her community, and the young health worker in Tanzania who spent weekends in remote villages working to prevent HIV.

“The individual stories provide excellent motivation to be involved in public health,” she says, “but population-level research indicates that the problems to be addressed are immense. Quantifying the extent and consequences of health challenges is the first step towards finding solutions.”

Carolina Public Health is a publication of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health. To view previous issues, please visit