UCLA School of Public Health Field Studies Program

Community Health Sciences

Field Placement: Ventura County of Public Health Department, HIV/AIDS Services
Ventura, CA
Dan Jordan, PhD – Research Psychologist
Student Name: Nicole Smith
Year: 2005

This report signifies the culmination of my internship with the Ventura County of Public Health Department (VCPH) that spanned three months and over 400 hours during the summer of 2005. While at VCPH I worked for HIV/AIDS Education and Prevention and “The Center”, which is the discrete name used for the HIV/AIDS Clinical and Case Management Services. I was also an active member of the Compass Point Steering Committee. My preceptor was Dan Jordan, PhD, county research psychologist who oversees VCPH research projects. In addition, I was supervised by long-time VCPH employee Susan Attaway, MPH, who served as Committee Chair and the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Education Coordinator, and Diana Goulet, PHN, Director of “The Center”.

The idea of a collaborative between local public health organizations came amid concerns of ethnic disparities in HIV/AIDS prevention outreach and medical care to minorities, particularly Hispanics, in Ventura County (VC). Support for the collaborative materialized through a California State Office of AIDS grant to enhance cultural competency among local health agencies. The award of this grant allowed 3-6 months access to the consulting services of Compass Point, a San Francisco-based agency that works to improve capacity among non-profit organizations. Hence, the work of the Compass Point Steering Committee (unofficially known as “Salud y Placer” Collaborative) began.

Once a month, representatives from VCPH, Planned Parenthood, Ventura County Rainbow Alliance, and Las Clinicas del Camino Real meet with the ultimate goal of reducing the incidence of HIV infection in the Latino community by providing culturally appropriate HIV/AIDS services and outreach to that community. At the initial meeting of agencies, two issues in particular were identified, (1) A need for improved outreach to Latino men who do not identify as gay or as men who have sex with men (MSM) and (2) The claim of an increasing number of Latino MSM and Latinos who are diagnosed later in the HIV/AIDS continuum of disease and/or do not get into care until they are very ill.

I was brought in during the formative research stage to compile information (e.g. acculturation, demographic, psychosocial, and HIV/AIDS characteristic information) about Latinos diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in the county. To accomplish this, I used state case reports that document each new HIV/AIDS case in VC and I performed informal interviews of service providers. From the interviews and current psycho-cultural and HIV/AIDS theoretical models, I developed a data collection instrument to review client charts at The Center. The client charts provided a readily accessible pool of infected Latino individuals from which I was able to collect and analyze relatively consistent data.

Although the sample of only VCPH Latino charts has low external validity to the at-risk Latino population in VC, the information gleaned from it has given the committee and VCPH staff a starting point for the next phase of the project. The data also brought to light operational issues, some of which can improve future tracking of clients and the epidemic in the county.

While performing my research objective, I learned a lot about the organization of a county public health department, including how it contracts with community agencies, merges two divisions, manages staff, and performs outreach activities. Most of all, I met many dedicated and talented professionals whom I am fortunate to continue working with this fall.


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