Where Theory and Practice Meet

NYU Wagner places great emphasis on the integration of theory and practice, both in our research and teaching. Students take the theories they learn in the classroom and apply them in real-world settings. Faculty research examines issues of public importance with an eye to practical impact, asking and finding answers to the most pressing questions of our time.

Faculty Research

Childhood Obesity: Public health impact and policy responses.

"Global View On Childhood Obesity: Current Status, Consequences, and Prevention" Debasis Bagchi, Editor. Sept-2010

Understanding the complex factors contributing to the growing childhood obesity epidemic is vital not only for the improved health of the world's future generations, but for the healthcare system. The impact of childhood obesity reaches beyond the individual family and into the public arenas of social systems and government policy and programs.

Read More

Global Perspectives on Childhood Obesity explores these with an approach that considers the current state of childhood obesity around the world as well as future projections, the most highly cited factors contributing to childhood obesity, what it means for the future both for children and society, and suggestions for steps to address and potentially prevent childhood obesity.

Read Less

Alumni in Action

Bridging Public Health and Politics Christopher Manning, MPA-Health

As an undergraduate, Chris Manning studied public health. After finishing college he worked at the American Heart Association as a health educator and over time, he began to get more involved in the organization's advocacy work.

Read More

In doing so, it soon occurred to him that he could impact far more people by working on one good public policy than by conducting the countless community presentations that he did for his job. During that time he also made two key observations that have shaped his career ever since. Manning first noticed that there seemed to be two different groups of people in his field: public health professionals to whom the political process is mostly foreign, and policy experts and lobbyists who understand a good deal about political processes but much less about public health. The field was lacking people who had equal experience in both areas and a solid reputation on each side, Manning explains. He also noticed that while large nonprofits like the American Heart Association have the money and resources to commit towards influencing policy, these groups make up only a small part of the nonprofit health sector. For smaller groups, Manning observed that no one has really been able to identify a role for them in the government process, helping them to become policy makers, not policy takers. Manning decided he wanted to be someone who understood both politics and public health and hoped that after gaining a good deal of balanced experience he could later consult on how to make space for nonprofits in the policy arena. Armed with a bachelor's degree in public health and several years experience in the nonprofit health sector, it was clear to Manning that the next step was to get a master's degree with a policy focus. He came to Wagner and created his own specialization in public affairs by taking the best of the management classes as well as the best of the policy classes. He appreciated that Wagner didn't pigeon-hole you in one area. A multidisciplinary approach really allowed me to be well rounded, he says. While in school Manning worked at Wagner's Center for Health and Public Service Research and after graduating he joined Mayor Bloomberg's Office of City Legislative Affairs where he worked for two and a half years on health, environmental, and housing issues. In 2006 he moved to the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) where he currently serves as Assistant Commissioner for the department's Bureau of Intergovernmental Affairs. The DOHMH is a place that definitely provides Manning a chance to build a comprehensive set of skills. The vantage point I have from which to see how government operates is pretty hard to beat, he says. His office operates in six major areas: he and his staff of six manage all of the department's relationships with elected officials on the city, state, and federal levels; they develop, manage and promote the department's legislative agenda from initial concept and bill drafting, to lobbying and advocacy; they track and respond to legislation on all levels of government (and there are currently more than 1,800 pieces of relevant legislation on the state level); they coordinate the department's presence at legislative hearings, selecting appropriate delegates and helping to frame the message; they provide strategic guidance to programs around the agency to ensure nothing will become a political issue that shouldn't; and they oversee community affairs for the agency, representing DOHMH at community board meetings and collecting information on the local level. Manning works closely with DOHMH's commissioner and admits that with so much responsibility the environment can be very high pressure at times. The decisions I weigh in on are often all or nothing, he says, which makes the job stressful. He notes that there is rarely an obvious right answer and the best choice sometimes doesn't become apparent until after the fact. Nevertheless, Manning appreciates having the opportunity to have a voice in decision making. It's fascinating to be a part of the conversations that happen, he says. With health issues changing all the time, he explains that the world dictates what I do each day. And Manning knows that whatever decisions are made will be transparent and open to criticism. The things you read on Tuesday in the newspaper are the things I was working on on Monday, he points out. And while he concedes that no one comes into this job knowing exactly what they're supposed to do, there is plenty of opportunity for growth. I've become more comfortable over time with taking information in, thinking critically, and making a recommendation, he says. Manning has gained a good deal of experience at DOHMH, but he is in no hurry to leave. I'll stay until I stop experiencing new things and facing new challenges, he says. For as long as he does, DOHMH will be lucky to have him, with his solid understanding of both the world of public health and the politics of government.

Read Less

Capstone: In the Field

Gram Vikas: An Alternative to Community-Led Total Sanitation (2010) Faculty: Natasha Iskander

Team: Molly Butler, Hallie Caplan, Maulin Mehta, Kimberly Worsham

Gram Vikas is a nonprofit organization located in rural east India with a mission to promote processes which are sustainable, socially inclusive and gender equitable to enable critical masses of poor and marginalized rural people or communities to achieve a dignified quality of life. The Capstone team was asked to evaluate Gram Vikas' water and sanitation program in regards to health and community effectiveness. The team's report integrated the program's impacts on the community with an analysis of how the managerial structure of the organization affects the program.

Read More

The team conducted literature reviews and read extensive field reports from the water and sanitation sector in India and worldwide to gain a fuller understanding of Gram Vikas' role in the development community, while reviewing outside evaluations and in-house testimonials from the organization to gain a better perspective of the functioning organization. A three week trip to India for field research gave the team a rich amount of data and insight into Gram Vikas, and the team's recommendations are geared to help both the organization specifically as well as leave points of reference for other organizations involved with community led methods.

Read Less