Sridevi Mahidhara: The Adventures of a Summer MPH Intern

The Adventures of a Summer MPH Intern: MPH Youth Tobacco 

Prevention Internship with Children’s of Alabama

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I am one of two graduate students who represented the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health this summer through a Children’s of Alabama Youth Tobacco Prevention Internship. I applied for this internship because I have a strong passion for keeping our city’s youth tobacco-free. The faculty mentor for this internship, Susan Walley, M.D., is a Pediatric Hospitalist at Children’s of Alabama and Associate Professor at UAB Department of Hospital Medicine– Pediatrics. During the three months of this internship, I worked closely with Dr. Walley, her team, and a fellow graduate student intern. I was eager to reach out to stores inthe Birmingham area and on UAB property in order to help influence comprehensive smoke-free policies.

My three months at Children’s were full of surveying and exploration. After receiving proper training and guidance, I conducted two types of store assessment surveys with my fellow graduate student: Counter Tobacco STARS and ENDS for e-cigarettes. We surveyed a total of 29 stores in the Irondale, Mountain Brook, and Homewood communities of Birmingham and 6 stores on UAB property. The stores included convenience stores and mass merchandiser stores.

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The goal of surveying was to better understand the marketing and point-of-sale advertising the tobacco industry directs towards youth. The main focus area for the project was in Irondale. I noticed that convenience stores displayed more advertisements on the exterior of the store than other types of stores. I learned this may be because tobacco sales are a major part of profits for convenience stores. In addition, some convenience stores even displayed their tobacco products close to products meant for kids. This was not very common with the other types of stores. All the stores we surveyed sold their tobacco products behind a counter to adults 19 years of age and older and only with the assistance of a knowledgeable employee. Unfortunately, most stores did not display a graphic health warning.

The goal of my adventure was to help influence policy makers to come up with smoke-free laws and policies, increase tobacco prices, and sustain community-wide counter-tobacco efforts in Irondale and the UAB Health District. I am now conducting data analysis and independent research related to the goals of Dr. Walley’s tobacco research project. Dr. Walley will be presenting these findings at a UAB Health District Meeting in order to help influence a smoke-free policy in the UAB area. I will report my findings at the UAB Internship Poster Session in August. With my summer internship adventures at Children’s, I am certain that something positive will happen in the field of tobacco prevention in Birmingham’s youth.

Sridevi Mahidhara
6/20/2018

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