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Meet Harriet Okatch, PhD, MPH

Briefly describe what you do at Jefferson, including any special research or projects you’re working on.

I'm teach public health courses in the  MPH program at the Jefferson College of Population Health. I also conduct research on childhood lead-poisoning prevention. Currently, I have a grant from the Department and Housing and Urban Development to determine the long-term effectiveness of residential lead remediation and its impact on childhood cognitive development. Other projects include determining the prevalence of elevated blood lead levels in different countries.

In addition, I am the co-chair of Lead-Free Promise Project, a state-wide coalition with representation from over 60 different organizations. The Lead-Free Promise Project aims to identify funding for residential lead remediation, advocate for at least two screening tests for lead in children before age 2, and advocate that all children who test positive for elevated blood lead levels be connected to an early intervention program.

The work I do with amazing colleagues like Maggie King, Bruce Clash and Rosemarie Halt through the Lead-Free Promise Project resulted in the state government committing $2 million within the Maternal and Child Health Budget line to residential lead remediation. This marks the first time the State of Pennsylvania has committed funds toward residential lead remediation.

What is the best part of your job?
I love research and creating opportunities for students to be involved in problem identification, solution seeking using scientific methods and dissemination of findings to varied audiences. I also enjoy being at the interface between public health research and public health practice.

What’s one piece of advice you give students?
Find opportunities to immerse yourself in public health practice and/or research while you are completing your studies. These are "free" opportunities to explore, learn and develop public health practical competencies in a safe context.

What’s something people would be surprised to find out about you?
I played on the Botswana National Basketball Team.