Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Hynes improves the community's health

Emma Hynes


In 2014 Emma (Hynes) Hudson became a legislative liaison with Alliance Colorado, an organization dedicated to strengthening services and support for people with developmental disabilities by collaboratively advancing innovative policies and practices.

2010 alum Emma Hynes is a health-care policy analyst with the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families and a policy associate and program manager with the Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health.

"I am passionate about improving social determinants of health through evidence-based public health policies and programs and integrating the consumer and community perspective into health care systems and policy decision-making," Hynes says.

For the council, Hynes works to expand access to health insurance in Wisconsin by supporting successful implementation of health care reform. In addition to daily policy analysis and technical assistance, Hynes travels throughout Wisconsin giving presentations to health-care provider groups, non-profit organizations, hospitals, clinics, schools and other agencies to educate stakeholders about the benefits and requirements included in the federal Affordable Care Act.

For the alliance, Hynes runs the Wisconsin Adolescent Health Care Communication Program. "I hire and train Dane County teens to do workshops with health-care providers and other teenagers to break down communication barriers between the two groups," Hynes says. "An extensive evaluation found that the program greatly improved the self-efficacy of providers' and youths' ability to talk to each other about sexual health, doctor-patient confidentiality and other sensitive topics."

In both jobs, Hynes finds her La Follette School training useful. "The La Follette classes that I value the most and reflect on often in my career include: Pam Herd's policy analysis class, Paul Soglin's management class and John Witte's policy making process class," says Hynes, who earned dual master's degrees in public affairs and public health, plus a graduate certificate in consumer health advocacy, in 2010.

"All of these classes not only gave me valuable knowledge, they helped me hone practical analysis and managerial skills that I often put to use even now," Hynes adds. "It's not uncommon for me to dig through IRS tax code or state statutes to piece together fact sheets about proposed bills or a report about legislative impact. I'm constantly grateful that the La Follette School gave me some experience with this work before I was thrown into the fire."

Hynes also values the ongoing relationships she established at the La Follette School. Before being re-elected to his third stint as Madison's mayor, Paul Soglin taught management courses at the school. "Mayor Paul Soglin was a great mentor for me early on," Hynes says. "As I weighed the costs and benefits of various next career steps, he did a wonderful job of gently steering me toward work that I found gratifying and that matched my personal skill set. It's fun to end up in meetings with him and other leaders to discuss reproductive health policy options. Even now, Paul will check in on my career progress or donate a 'Lunch with the Mayor' for a silent auction to support my non-profit."

Hynes regularly taps her classmates for advice and input on policy proposals. "I've repeatedly contacted Ian Ritz at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to discuss how changes in transit policy and funding levels might affect transportation options for women and girls," Hynes says. "I often email Rebecca McAtee or Jami Crespo at the Department of Health Services to check on the status of a state Medicaid waiver or ask specific eligibility questions. The relationships you build in graduate school can help you out in the 'real' world — knowing many of my former La Follette peers now that I'm working in the field is incredibly useful."

Prior to her current positions, Hynes was a population health service fellow working at both the Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health (doing state budget and reproductive health policy analysis and organizing the annual Wisconsin Women's Health Policy Summit) and the Wisconsin Department of Public Health's Maternal and Child Health Unit (doing statewide system-level stakeholder engagement and coordination for women's health, part of which resulted in the preconception health portal: 

Hynes completed her bachelor's degree in 2008, also at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. While a graduate student, she had a project assistantship with the campus Population Health Institute, for which she worked on a qualitative evaluation of Wisconsin's low-income family health-care policy, BadgerCare Plus.

"My experience at La Follette only heightened my commitment to public service by giving me the tools and knowledge I needed to really help make a difference," says Hynes, who, outside work, improves the health of her community by teaching yoga to adults and children. "I'm so grateful to have meaningful work in non-profit health policy advocacy at this point in my career, and I attribute much of that opportunity to my time at the La Follette School."

— article last updated November 27, 2013