Student Spotlight Series: How Did Alexandra Gowdy-Jaehnig Create a Toolkit to Provide Health to Justice Involved Youth?

Alexandra is a UMN second-year MPH Maternal and Child Health student with a minor in Health Equity. Children and adolescent health is her main academic and research interest. She is currently a research assistant on a UMN SPH study, ECHO-TIDES II, which examines the effects of environmental exposures on children’s health and development.

About MDH’s Child & Teen Checkups and Adolescent Health

Child and Teen Checkups (C&TC) is Minnesota’s early periodic screening, diagnosis, and treatment (EPSDT) program which provides comprehensive health and dental care for Minnesota children who are under the age of 21 and eligible for Medicaid. C&TC ensures that children receive preventive health screenings and interventions according to the schedule of age-related screening standards. The Adolescent Health program believes adolescence provides a unique opportunity to invest in the health and well-being of Minnesota’s young people (aged 10-25) as they work through the development process of being, becoming and belonging.

The Project

I joined the C&TC and Adolescence Health teams to help identify challenges in providing preventive health care to justice involved youth (JIY) in non-secure settings (i.e. diversion, treatment/therapy and residential programs or probation etc.) and to create a tool kit to help address those challenges. Based on a literature review, interviews with stakeholders working with JIY, and a short survey of Minnesota Safe Harbor Regional Navigators I produced a report. It described statistics, gender and racial disparities, preventive health care standards, insurance coverage, continuity of care and specific health needs (mental health, substance abuse, suicide, sexually transmitted infections and dental/vision/hearing) for JIY in non-secure settings and potential opportunities for change.

In order to develop a toolkit, I used research on preventive care for JIY in secure settings previously collected by a UMN student, Virginia Pendleton, along with my own findings. The toolkit was comprised of a power point and handout intended to educate C&TC coordinators and staff; health care providers; juvenile correctional facility and detention center staff and probation officers and intervention program case managers/staff on justice involved youth and preventive care. This included information on JIY’s demographics, social determinants of health, barriers to care, their specific health needs, and adolescent development. It also incorporated recommendations on how adults in each setting (listed above) can improve JIY’s access to and use of preventive care as well as listing Minnesota resources specific to their responsibilities and interactions with JIY.

This was an ideal project for me to be part of since working to improve the health of JIY is an intersection of my interests in adolescent health and health equity. It provided the opportunity to identify important challenges for JIY in getting preventive like lack of health care standards in non-secure settings and issues with continuity of care (like being less likely to be insured or to have a medical home). Additionally, it challenged me to synthesize the research to develop a tangible and useful resource. This process is at the core of what I hope to do as a future public health professional as I work to reduce barriers to health and create more opportunities children and adolescents to improve their current and lifelong health. I am very thankful for the guidance I had along the way from my mentor Faith Kidder as well as help from Julie Neitzel Carr, Katy Schalla-Lesiak and Mai Vue.


Interested in learning more about getting a degree in Maternal and Child Health? Visit our MCH Program page for more information.

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