Dr. Joyce Moon Howard

Clinical Associate Professor of Global Public Health
New York University College of Global Public Health

Just as a photograph is a conversation between objects near and far away and darkness and light, a successful research study can achieve even greater meaning with the right mixture of academic and community input. At least, Dr. Joyce Moon Howard, our Director of our CGPH Undergraduate Program in Public Health and Clinical Associate Professor of Global Public Health, sees the research that way.

To start a conversation on a local level, Dr. Joyce Moon Howard employs photovoice–a research technique that begins with community members photographing images to describe a local health problem. Photo voice is one of many ways to create open dialogue among community members and researchers, one of the first steps in Community-Based Participatory Research.

As someone whose career is rooted in the 1980s-1990s community healthcare movement, Dr. Moon Howard has witnessed firsthand how transformative it can be when a neighborhood takes action, becomes empowered and changes the course of community health care. Powerful research findings can motivate neighborhoods to take action. Dr. Moon Howard helps facilitate such cooperation between researchers and community members so that the resulting data can better address the community’s questions and concerns. Using qualitative techniques such as “photovoice” or informal focus groups, she can ensure alignment between the needs of the community and those who study them.

Dr. Moon Howard feels strongly that there is no substitute for spending time in a community to create lasting bonds that build trust. While working in rural Tanzania on needs assessments, she spent time engaging individuals in the community to determine the critical questions they deemed vital to have asked an answered. “One of the important things for students to remember is to engage with the communities with whom they work. Because without the community’s participation and cooperation –whether they are developing or evaluating an intervention, or planning a program–they really cannot be truly effective.”

As Clinical Associate Professor, she shares her research experiences with students in Community Assessment and Evaluation courses and an undergraduate course, Health, Society, and the Global Context.

In speaking about the Community Assessment course, Dr. Moon Howard admits, “It’s a lot of work, but the advantage is they (the students) do everything that they would do in real life. If they were hired by the local Department of Health or a government agency, they would most likely conduct the same research tasks. And while it’s one thing to say that you’ve read about and think you can do it, it’s another thing to be able to say you’ve actually applied your skills in the field.”

Dr. Moon Howard served as Principal Investigator on a HRSA (Health Resources and Services Administration) study on eliminating disparities among pregnant women in low-income areas in New York City; a National Institute of Child Health and Infant Development (NICHD) study focusing on HIV/AIDS prevention strategies in African American communities; and an National Institute on Aging (NIA) study to examine facilitation and barriers to community-academic partnerships or CBPR at the Columbia University Medical Center.

She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California at Berkeley and her MPH and DrPH from The Mailman School of Public Health. She also completed a graduate fellowship in Urban Administration at Bucknell University as a National Urban Fellow.