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Alix Rachman (EHS - Climate Change and Health Concentration)

Summer Internship at Environmentally Safe Housing and Weatherization in Connecticut Department of Public Health, Hartford

Career Goal

Alix Rachman, MPH ’23, Environmental Health Sciences (Climate Change and Health Concentration)

My long-term career goal is to engage in environmental project management and assist organizations in their climate, energy, and sustainability goals.

Internship Outline

My internship at the Connecticut Department of Public Health involved conducting research on the current progress of weatherization and barriers to weatherization in Connecticut homes with a focus on low-income communities that have been made vulnerable to climate change. This work was used to provide policy recommendations to support the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection in the state’s energy efficiency and weatherization goals.

I conducted a policy analysis on legislation and programs that address weatherization and barriers to weatherization of Connecticut homes. Using peer-reviewed and grey literature, I synthesized a literature review to enhance my knowledge of the health, environmental, and economic impacts of weatherization. I then compiled a compendium of current regulations and programs into a matrix that illustrated the impact of weatherization in Connecticut and other similar states. I organized and utilized all information to determine the most effective recommendations to support DEEP’s weatherization efforts in Connecticut and address the gaps in the state’s weatherization programs. All deliverables and recommendations were disseminated during DPH’s Environmental Health and Drinking Water branch meeting.

Value of Experience

This internship gave me a deeper understanding about the challenges that low-income communities face when it comes to bearing the impacts of climate change and preparing for extreme events. Working with the Department of Public Health gave me the tools and skills necessary to progress policy-relevant research that aims to empower, activate, and serve those made vulnerable to climate change. This internship also developed my ability to critically engage with current and proposed legislation and write policy briefs.

Best Moment/Experience

With a deep interest in how climate change impacts human and environmental health, the most valuable aspect of my internship was being able to explore the political, social, and economic barriers behind weatherization and energy-efficiency services for low-income communities that the department considered to address gaps in current weatherization programs.

In addition to the wealth of knowledge gained from this internship, I was also given the incredible opportunity to connect with experts and program administrators from state agencies, community action agencies, and utility companies that gave me a well-rounded view of the progress on weatherization in the state, and truly showed me the interdisciplinary nature of the public health field. Because weatherization programs have historically been underfunded, it was at times challenging navigating resources and information about funding, as most federal and state programs are extremely siloed across various agencies, private companies, and hospitals.

How did your first year at YSPH prepare you for this internship?

Enrolling in the Climate Change Policy and Perspectives course with Dan Esty at the School of the Environment gave a phenomenal introduction to national and international climate policy and decision-making, as well as outlining the political challenges behind developing a sustainable energy system in the United States. One of the most useful aspects of this class was being able to write policy memos, which I was able to carry to my internship when writing my final policy brief that addressed the gaps in our state’s weatherization programs. While the Health Policy and Health Care Systems course at the School of Public Health was focused on the United States health care system, I found that this course was applicable, as implementing legislation in any field encounters similar challenges.

What would you say to a student who’s considering a similar internship?

This internship was very self-motivated. It took great amounts of self-discipline to meet deadlines and finish deliverables, since the work was completely remote. However, the staff at the department are supportive and communicative, so don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as necessary. You get out of the internship what you put in!

Funding Source

Stolwijk Fellowship and New England Public Health Training Center Student Stipend Program.