Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Thursday, November 12, 2009

Crespo focuses on health, environment

La Follette School photo taken July 9, 2009, by Andy Manis
Jami Crespo


After graduating in May 2012 with her dual degree in public affairs and law, Jami Crespo joined the Boardman and Clark law firm in Madison as an associate attorney. In 2014 she became a policy analyst at Public Health Madison and Dane County.

Good health and a clean environment are inseparable for Jami Crespo, and she looks forward to applying her policy analysis and legal skills to ensure people have both.

"People need to be healthy before they can be a productive part of society," Crespo says, "and a clean environment is a fundamental part of ensuring that people are healthy.

Prior to enrolling in the public affairs and law dual-degree program, Crespo spent 2.5 years working on health care as a legislative assistant in Congress. For the first year, she was a fellow with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, which placed her with Representative Barbara Lee of California. Crespo researched legislation and issues related to health and HIV/AIDS, and she prepared legislation and documents for briefings and hearings.

When the fellowship ended, she joined the staff of Representative Howard Berman, also of California, and focused on health, women, children and agriculture. "A major project was introducing a bill for ovarian cancer," Crespo says. "We were seeking funding for research to identify biomarkers that would indicate which women are likely to develop ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is usually diagnosed at a late stage because there are few symptoms in the early stages of the disease, and when symptoms are detected they are often attributed to other causes. Our goal is to detect the cancer earlier when women have a much greater chance of survival."

At La Follette, Crespo was a fellow her first year and serves as treasurer of the La Follette School Student Association. During her second semester, Crespo put her analysis skills to work as an intern with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "I analyzed emissions data and drafted a section of a progress report for the Legislature," she says. "I worked on pollution issues, and this opportunity really gave me a chance to see how the environment impacts people's health. I saw how much pollution companies emitted into the environment and the relationship between that pollution and negative health impacts." To learn more about these issues Crespo is planning to obtain a certificate in Humans and the Global Environment through the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. This certificate program brings together students from multiple disciplines to try and solve issues related to health and the environment.

Last summer, Crespo gained a more local perspective on public policy through an internship with the city of Madison mayor's office, working on alcohol policy. "After examining state and local policies, I recommended changes for Madison ordinances and Wisconsin statutes," Crespo says. "Alcohol policy is really about health and keeping people safe. We considered licenses for bars and restaurants and whether to shut down problem bars. I went to a lot of meetings with business owners, attorneys, police officers and members of the city's zoning office. So many facets of city government are involved in alcohol policy."

Crespo finds she appreciates local policymaking. "Federal and state policy are important," she says, "but I liked seeing the effect, the impact local policy had on a regular basis in the community where I live."

Another local impact Crespo is likely to see is the result of a Planned Parenthood project, Cuidandome, which means "taking care of myself" in Spanish. "The project is teaching Latina women about preventative health care related to breast and cervical cancer," Crespo says. "Latina mortality rates for these types of cancer are higher than the general population, and Planned Parenthood is making Latinas more aware of their risk and encouraging them to get pap smears and mammograms."

Crespo's role is to survey women before they hear the information, and they will be surveyed again after the program. "We're attempting to see if the program has an impact on the behavior of the women—are they getting their preventative tests or changing their behaviors and if not, what is preventing them from doing this?" she says. She adds that the program has been "a great opportunity to connect with people in the community and hopefully make a difference in their lives."

Now in her first year of law school, Crespo looks forward to using both her legal and policy analysis tools to effect change in health and the environment. "Policy analysis and law are foundational fields on which I can build my career," she says. "The more tools I have to analyze issues and come up with solutions, the more effective I can be in accomplishing my goals."

Last modified on Wednesday, November 5, 2014