Partner Profile: A Conversation with Kate Fox

August 21, 2019

August 21, 2019

The Health Care Improvement Foundation’s (HCIF) Partner Profiles highlight the efforts of valued and innovative health leaders. Our partners’ work supports HCIF’s vision for a responsive, coordinated health care community that fulfills the needs of patients and consumers to achieve better health.

Kate Fox, MPH, DrPH (c), Health Promotion Program Planning and Evaluation Supervisor at the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS), serves on the Planning Committee for the Youth Behavioral Health Summit taking place on September 24. She talked to HCIF about her career in public health, the needs of children in Philadelphia, and her hopes for how the Youth Behavioral Health Summit can help address those needs.

What made you decide to pursue a career in public health?

I always knew I wanted a career that would serve people.  I studied Sociology in undergrad and always thought I would go on to study Social Work.  Quite serendipitously, I took an administrative job at Community Behavioral Health after college.  Frankly, I was not at all interested in the job at the beginning!  It was a Scheduling Coordinator position in the Credentialing Unit – snooze!

This role ended up being incredibly formative in my career.  I learned about the behavioral healthcare system in Philadelphia, from funding streams, to level of care continuums, to policy implementation, to strategic program development….I continued to work at Community Behavioral Health while I pursued my Master’s degree at Thomas Jefferson University.  Now, I’m excited to be returning to academia to pursue a Doctorate in Public Health this fall at Drexel University!

Tell us about your work at DBHIDS.

My overarching goal is to align public health and behavioral health work throughout my career.  I straddle two fields, and while behavioral health is critical to building healthy communities, I’ve experienced a disconnect between the two fields.  At DBHIDS, I work to bridge this gap by managing several partnerships with public health agencies working outside the scope of behavioral health, such as The Food Trust or CeaseFire PA.  I love working across systems to break down siloes and ensure that behavioral health is represented in various public health conversations.

I’ve been working with HCIF for about two years now, and the most valuable thing about the Foundation is its ability to collaborate across systems.  HCIF is such a critical partner in convening and facilitating collaboration across health systems in our city.

What are some of the most critical issues facing children in Philadelphia today?

Public health has pushed healthcare delivery systems to begin to recognize the importance of social determinants, not only on health, but also on a child’s future health outcomes.  We know that educational attainment, economic stability, food and access to healthy options all play a role in health outcomes.  The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study from 2008 and 2013 demonstrated the remarkable impact that childhood experiences such as divorce, neglect, incarceration can have on physical health outcomes….The field has begun to recognize poverty, community violence, or racism as key determinants to a child’s future health.

I believe that these systemic issues are the most critical issues that Philadelphia children face today.  With over a quarter of the city living below the federal poverty line and over 50% a racial/ethnic minority, our children are being exposed to systemic traumas at very early ages that will impact their health for the rest of their lives….As healthcare providers, we can do more in familiarizing ourselves to the resources that our city has to offer, to support families in providing what is best for their children. 

What do you hope people learn from attending the Youth Behavioral Health Summit?

Behavioral health is such a critical piece of a child’s overall health and wellbeing; often is it the piece that requires the most attention.  I hope that people who attend the Summit leave feeling empowered to identify and address behavioral health issues as they arise in the populations or communities that they serve.  It’s important for healthcare providers, social workers, public health professionals, and anyone invested in serving our community to familiarize themselves with the resources that Philadelphia has to offer.

What are your greatest accomplishments within your field so far?

One accomplishment that I’m incredibly proud of is my work with Survivors of Suicide Loss.  Individuals who lose a loved one to suicide are known to be at higher risk of suicide themselves.  The Philadelphia Suicide Prevention Task Force conducted a resource mapping project in the summer of 2017 and identified that Philadelphia lacks resources for survivors of suicide loss.  I was able to implement a peer-led, community-based support group in South Philly.  This year, we accepted applications for eight new facilitators, hosted a peer facilitator training, and will launch four new support groups next month! (For more information, please click here.)

As though Ms. Fox isn’t busy enough with her work at DBHIDS and doctoral training, she shared with us another activity that keeps her occupied: “I am a professional wedding guest. This year, I have attended 13 weddings and was a bridesmaid in six – feel free to invite me to yours!”

She’s not stopping there, either. Kate is getting married herself next month – just a few days after the Youth Behavioral Health Summit. To get in touch, you can email her, find her on Linked In, or connect with her through the Public Health Young Leaders Association.

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