Public Health Action Support Team: Thoughts and Feelings Before Entering a Partner Community Other than My Own

Antonio Mercatante

2nd Year MPH Candidate - Global Health Epidemiology


Hi, everyone!

My name is Antonio Mercatante, I am a Global Health Epidemiology student at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. I am also a member of the Public Health Action Support Team (PHAST) and a returned Peace Corps Volunteer. This May, I will be assisting stakeholders in Mississippi to upscale a food prescription program in order to improve access to fresh and healthy food options for community members in Coahoma and Tallahatchie County.

Entering an unfamiliar community can spark a flurry of emotions, expectations, and curiosity. While there can be a lot to consider before entering a community, it is important to prepare yourself with what information is available about that community as well as to manage your expectations for what you may or may not experience. My initial research about the communities and stakeholders has given me a general understanding of the geography of the area, demographics, and food resources available to residents. This research, however, is not a way to justify assumptions about the culture or the people that live in this area. I think that keeping an open mind and minimal expectations is an important aspect to respectively and effectively enter a community that is foreign to my own. I intend to minimize my expectations during the preparation period leading up to this project so that I can learn and observe from those that the project serves.

I look forward to listening to the community and hearing what valuable input they can provide. Hearing their perspectives on how food access can be improved for them is very important for ensuring that the project is tailored in an appropriate manner. I hope you enjoyed reading this introductory blog post. If you’re interested, check back in around the end of May to find out more about how the project went, the project’s next steps, and what I learned from the residents of Coahoma County.