Family News: Spring 2016

Welcome to the spring 2016 issue of the Family News, a resource designed to keep the PopFam Family—students, faculty, alumni, and friends—informed about the latest developments in our Department including our teaching, service, and research efforts.

This issue highlights our global efforts to promote child and adolescent health and wellbeing. One of the most vulnerable stages of life, the health and behavior patterns established during this period have a profound impact on future health and development. This issue of the Family News is incredibly timely, being released just on the heels of the exciting launch of the report from The Lancet Commission on Adolescent and Wellbeing. From a public health perspective, adolescence, in particular, is a time characterized by significant risk but also great opportunity. This issue presents a breaking news publication announcement on the report, which discusses the intersectoral, multilevel, and multicomponent global actions to improve adolescent health and engage and empower young people themselves to be part of necessary change.

Each year, our faculty, staff research scientists, and students engage in applied research projects that aim to increase the odds that all children—but particularly those in the most vulnerable settings—have the care and support they need to thrive. Our feature article spotlights three important international projects that beautifully illustrate the highly collaborative nature of PopFam’s work, as our students, faculty, and like-minded organizations partner to magnify their impact. The first two, led by Associate Professor Lindsay Stark, DrPH, address the problem of children who have been separated from their parents and families. The third initiative, which involves Assistant Professor Cassie Landers, EdD, MPH, aims to bring early play-based learning to young children growing up in poverty in three countries.

Our alumni spotlight focuses on Brad Kerner, MPH ‘05, who has spent the past decade helping Save the Children enhance its global efforts to promote the sexual and reproductive health of adolescents. Our DrPH spotlight features Janna Metzler, MPH, MSSW ‘11, who has been working to assess the impact of a popular humanitarian intervention that provides play spaces to children living in areas recovering from conflict or crisis.

While much of this issue is international in focus, we also share some important domestic work. I encourage you to check out our interview with Assistant Professor Helena Duch, PhD, a child and school psychologist who developed an innovative pre-K curriculum that has been used in 30 classrooms in New York City, and our article about JongJin Jo, MPH ‘16, who spent his practicum experience helping New York City health officials engage faith leaders in the promotion of public health and is now working full-time for the city.

This issue also introduces the Child Health Initiative for Learning and Development, or CHILD, an exciting new initiative that aims to catalyze and develop more comprehensive and integrated approaches to the promotion of children’s health and wellbeing. Co-directed by Professors Neil Boothby, EdD, and Virginia Rauh, MSW, ScD (who leads the MPH Certificate in Child, Youth, and Family Health also presented in this issue), CHILD aims to serve as an interdisciplinary hub for research, training, and advocacy programs.

Finally, our publication spotlight turns to a different public health dilemma: the global drug war. We showcase a bold new Johns Hopkins-Lancet Commission report, which describes decades of failed drug policy which have wrecked havoc to children and families. The lead author of this new report is our own Joanne Csete, PhD, MPH.

I am so pleased to share this issue of the Family News with you and I hope you enjoy it.


John S. Santelli, MD, MPH
Chair, Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health
Harriet and Robert H. Heilbrunn Professor of Population and Family Health and Pediatrics


Please consider supporting PopFam’s students by making a gift to the Lynne Loomis-Price Fund. Each contribution is a promise to help us end healthcare disparities and a tribute to those who have dedicated their lives to our mission. Funds are used to help second-year students with unexpected financial needs. Gifts can be made online at Please make all checks payable to Columbia University with the memo line Lynne Loomis-Price Fund and mail to: Mailman School of Public Health, 722 West 168th Street, 14th Floor, New York, NY 10032.

Ruth Mayer

Jennifer Heitel, MPH
Director of Special Projects

John Santelli, MD, MPH
Chair and Heilbrunn Professor of
Population and Family Health and Pediatrics