Originally published in the UGA Archway Partnership News.

My name is Courtney Chaffin and I am a fourth year undergraduate Health Promotion and Behavior student at the University of Georgia. Upon completion of this summer semester I will be graduating, then returning to UGA for a Master of Public Health.

The College of Public Health requires its students to complete a 300 hour internship before graduation. I had the privilege of spending my summer completing my internship as a Health and Wellness Intern with the UGA Archway Partnership. My time with the Archway Partnership was spent working specifically with community members in McDuffie County, Georgia.

I began my work by conducting a community needs assessment based off of action items deemed important by members of the Thomson-McDuffie Archway Partnership’s Health and Wellness Issue Work Group. I learned there was a need for promoting healthy lifestyle changes, promoting positive mental health, and addressing food insecurity.

I have assisted the issue work group this summer in creating goals and projects to better the health of those in the community. For example, we are looking to promote the local Farmer’s Market, as well as exercise classes in a central location in the community so they can be utilized to the fullest by community members. Unfortunately, due to the outbreak of COVID-19, these initiatives are taking a slow start. Many programs in McDuffie County are paused at the moment, but will hopefully resume soon to continue aiding those in need.

After assessing the community needs, I spent time analyzing County Health Rankings data trends which told me a lot about how McDuffie County is doing in comparison to the other counties in Georgia. This led to a lot of discussion about where McDuffie County should delegate resources, as well as the areas in which they have already seen improvement. This was an important aspect of my internship because it allowed me to compare what I had already seen through my community needs assessment to the data collected throughout the year.

The majority of my work during my internship with the UGA Archway Partnership has allowed me to showcase skills I have learned from my classes as an undergraduate student in the College of Public Health. I have learned research techniques which proved to be beneficial as I researched many state programs used in McDuffie County. A bulk of my internship was spent researching programs through the Health Department as well as the UGA Extension Office. My research will be used in the future as these programs resume again after COVID-19.

Overall, this internship has been a great way for me to branch out of my comfort zone. I have had meetings with Archway Professionals, presented at these meetings, and created documents to present to McDuffie County community members. I feel as though the University of Georgia prepared me for this internship, but this internship has prepared me to go into the professional world. I now feel confident in my ability to promote a healthy lifestyle among a specific population and my ability to relay statistics from data analysis to large populations.

I hope in the future to see my work with the McDuffie County Archway Partnership blossom into a means of healthy living and healthy lifestyle choices by the majority of the community. I hope to work with the Archway Partnership in the future to help them further their work in the Thomson-McDuffie area to create a positive and healthy environment for the community to grow. I want to send out a special thank you to everyone who allowed me to share my thoughts with them and work alongside them through my internship.

Posted August 11, 2020.