Director of the Health Advocacy Program
BA, Sarah Lawrence College. MS (Early Childhood Education), Bank Street College of Education. MSW, New York University Graduate School of Social Work. EdD (Organization Development and Leadership), Columbia University. An accomplished public-health leader, she has dedicated her career, spanning 40 years, to improving health services for underserved New Yorkers. As a researcher and program manager, she has led efforts to assure that reproductive health services and practices are solidly evidenced-based and to demonstrate an understanding of the need for collaboration between disciplines and sectors. Many of the programs, partnerships, and policies she helped initiate serve as models for other urban centers across the country. She recently served as Vice President of the Department of Planning, Research, and Evaluation that she created at Planned Parenthood of New York City (PPNYC) and served as Senior Vice President and Director of the Clinician Training Initiative at PPNYC, as well. She has held positions as Project Director at the Columbia School of Public Health for a national study funded by the Ford Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to review and formulate policies regarding infant mortality, HIV prevention, and substance use among pregnant women. She also served as Deputy Director of the Office of Women’s Health at the New York City Health and Hospital Corporation, where she monitored all the city hospital programs for substance-using women and pregnant adolescents. Prior to that, she developed the Women’s Healthline, a public information system for the New York City Department of Health and then served as Program Management Officer at the Bureau of Maternal and Child Health at the New York City Department of Health, where she managed the 300-staff initiative to reduce infant mortality in the city. Working with community and government partners, her accomplishments include founding the first Bereavement Program in New York City for families experiencing perinatal loss, establishing the Brooklyn Perinatal Network, and developing the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Healthy Teen Initiative. In recognition of her work and leadership abilities, she was elected president of the Public Health Association of New York City in 2010 and has served as chair of the board of the National Abortion Federation. Breitbart has taught at CUNY School of Public Health, Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, and New York University. Her publications include books on education and articles on reproductive health and intimate partner violence for peer-reviewed journals.
Current graduate courses
The Capstone project and seminar provide health-advocacy students the opportunity to integrate their academic learning with field experience and examine how theoretical advocacy themes are made operational in workplace settings. Capstone is designed to enhance the coherence of students’ educational experiences and further develop their sense of professional identity. The project generally builds on the third and final fieldwork placement and is supported by this Capstone Seminar, which provides students with a strategic perspective on how the field is evolving and the skills required to successfully navigate a rapidly changing profession in a health-care system undergoing significant reform. The seminar is designed to facilitate students’ work on their Capstone projects by providing them with a group setting in which to explore ideas and refine project parameters, connect the project to broader advocacy concepts and career development opportunities, and receive regular feedback on Capstone progress.
This course explores the multiple roles that health advocates assume as they create productive change on behalf of patients/consumers, families, and communities. Advocacy is practiced by improving the way health care is delivered within existing systems, by restructuring or reinventing areas of the health-care system, and by eliminating barriers to health caused by environmental destruction, poverty, and illiteracy. Throughout the year, students will be exposed to leaders who practice in diverse arenas within this interdisciplinary field, including clinical settings, community-based organizations, advocacy organizations, the media, interest groups, governmental organizations, and policy settings. They will learn to analyze organizations and communities in order to understand hierarchies and decision-making within them, and to be exposed to frameworks for conceptualizing and promoting the right to health. The course will also explore strategies to give health advocates and consumers more power in making decisions, defining issues, designing programs, and developing policies. The experiences of individuals and communities, as well as how systems respond to those experiences, will remain a central focus as students explore concepts, models, and practices of health advocacy.
Health advocacy issues are addressed through a myriad of avenues, typically involving some type of direct intervention. This course will provide an overview of and a critical reflection on the program design and evaluation process. Students will discuss and study elements of design and evaluation, the major theoretical and political orientations to evaluation research, and the practical, ethical, and methodological problems involved in applying research methods to understanding social change. Major topics include how to approach program conception and implementation, including developing and measuring program goals and objectives, and applying a social-justice lens to health advocacy issues, as well as to the entire continuum of program planning and evaluation. At the end of this course, students will be able to conceptually and practically understand the contours of how to thoughtfully plan, develop, and evaluate an intervention aimed at a health advocacy issue.