Associate Professor, Department of Family Studies and Community Development
Professor Linda Oravecz cares for the wellbeing, health and functioning of vulnerable families and has focused her research efforts on this population.
"The primary goal of my scholarship is to provide action-oriented research that can be used by professionals to improve services to at-risk individuals and families while also informing policy at local, state and federal levels," Oravecz explained.
"In response to women, children, and minorities being most vulnerable to poverty, violence, and a variety of health disparities in our society, my research has focused on risk factors – and possible solutions," she added.
Her recent research endeavors evaluate the efficacy of federally funded grant programs through the lenses of minority status, including gender, race, sexual orientation, and access to resources.
"During spring 2015, I was afforded the opportunity to work with my mentor from undergraduate and graduate studies at University of Maryland, Dr. Suzanne Randolph, at The MayaTech Corporation," Oravecz added. "The MayaTech Corporation is an applied social science research firm providing public health research and evaluation, policy and legislative analysis."
Through this project, Oravecz assessed whether the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office on Women's Health's Coalition for a Healthier Community Initiative – a gender-focused public health systems approach – is a sustainable and cost-effective way of tackling health disparities in women and girls. Oravecz was a part of the MayaTech team who conducted a national evaluation of 10 grantees implementing evidence-based gender-responsive interventions.
"Many of the grantees focused on health issues I had not yet studied, such as obesity and diabetes, while some focused on interpersonal violence, a topic that has been a part of my career research agenda," she added.
Oravecz and her colleagues developed several manuscripts from the data collected during evaluations. They were particularly interested in how effectively the interventions addressed health at the interpersonal, organizational, community, and public policy levels.
"We found that grantees formulated policies to address community-level barriers to improving women and girls' health, most focusing their attention on organizational-level policies," Oravecz noted. "One coalition worked with faith-based institutions on policies for healthy food served at churches or temples, while another implemented workplace policies to facilitate women walking inside in bad weather. Close to home, the Mayor's Office in Baltimore adopted policies to ensure healthy living among low income families."
The manuscript “Gender-based, public health systems approaches to improving women and girls’ health: Results from the U.S. Office on Women’s Health, coalition for a healthier community initiative” was published in the Journal of Community Medicine and Public Health Care.
“Community Coalitions’ Gender-Aware Policy and Systems Changes to Improve the Health of Women and Girls, Women’s Health Issues,” coauthored by Oravecz, S.M. Randolph and S. Kowalczyk, is another publication that resulted from the MayaTech evaluation.
Additionally, a paper, "Health in all policies: A socio-ecological analysis of policies to reduce gender disparities" was presented at the 2015 Maryland Public Health Association Annual Conference on September 24, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland.
"I have had a great experience learning about this federal agency and the work that they do to help women and girls," Oravecz said. "Becoming more experienced in program evaluation allows me to bring this skill to my courses and highlight how students might consider it as a career path."
At Towson University, Oravecz teaches courses on family policy, family theory and parenting. She appreciates her students' thoughtfulness and engagement. "They continuously impress me with their commitment to making a difference in the lives of families and the communities we live in," Oravecz said.
"I enjoy helping students make the connections to topics they might perceive as boring and abstract, like family policy, and how it impacts them on a personal level, as well as the populations they will work with upon graduation," Oravecz added.
Oravecz urges students interested in family policy to get in the field themselves. "We have an internship placement at MayaTech for our students who are interested in this particular area. I would recommend interning there or at a similar site. Nothing beats learning in the field!"