Graduate finds work and life he loves in Fargo-Moorhead
Published May 2016
Jason McCoy is one of those lucky people who is excited to go to work. Every day is different—he may meet with city administrators to develop tobacco ordinances, help a youth program develop a public service announcement or talk with state representatives about the latest tobacco research. He goes to the office knowing his work affects the health of thousands of people.
McCoy works as tobacco prevention coordinator for PartnerSHIP 4 Health, a collaboration of community and public health partners in Clay, Becker, Wilkin and Otter Tail counties in Minnesota. Their objective is to prevent chronic disease by promoting good health habits.
“When my feet hit the floor in the morning, I’m excited to be here,” he said from his office in the Clay County Public Health Unit in Moorhead.
McCoy earned a Master of Public Health degree from NDSU in 2015, and is another example of NDSU graduates who live and work in the area. He secured his position six months before he graduated, and was thrilled his family would make Fargo-Moorhead their permanent home.
The McCoys appreciate the quality schools, the variety of leisure activities and cultural diversity. They like having easy access to the lakes and a short drive to visit family living in North Dakota. As someone who specializes in health promotion, McCoy is impressed by Fargo’s efforts to promote good health, such as Streets Alive, which encourages physical activity.
“Having an MPH program in our area provides not only the education and training of individuals to work in the expanding scope of public health, but having the MPH program locally is helping to build the awareness and momentum for improving the community’s health,” said Gina Nolte, director of PartnerSHIP 4 Health and health promotion for Clay County Public Health. “Jason has brought a solid background from his MPH program and a passion for public health that is enhancing the work we are doing with PartnerSHIP 4 Health.”
The focus of McCoy’s job is preventing the ill health effects tobacco products have on people’s lives. He achieves this through educational outreach. But a big part of his job is shepherding local ordinances through the process and influencing tobacco law at the state level.
In the public health world, tobacco control is known as a tough nut to crack, especially when it comes to public policy. City administrators often have numerous pressing problems to solve for their communities. And some people are resistant to government intervention because they believe tobacco use is a personal choice.
McCoy thinks about the people who are hurt by other people’s tobacco choices—babies, kids, the elderly, people who have compromised immune systems. And he draws upon the philosophy of NDSU’s public health program, which emphasizes collaboration to solve a community’s health problems. He offers communities partnership to protect their most vulnerable citizens.
He is proud of the results he has gotten his first year on the job, both completing ordinances his predecessor laid the groundwork for and initiating new ordinances. He has shepherded five county ordinances and nine city ordinances through the process. He has two more county and 11 more city ordinances in the works.
It hasn’t been easy, but it has been rewarding. “I’m inspired to give 110 percent,” he said. “I go to work every day and help save lives.”