Center for Health Equity


Practicum Reflection: Asha Kalapatapu

Published: October 12, 2023

Practicum student Asha Kalapatapu standing in front of green background.

Asha Kalapatapu is a junior at the University of Texas in Austin and spent the summer researching health disparities across communities in Texas with the Center for Health Equity at UTHealth Houston School of Public Health.

“I primarily worked on creating a landscape scan on food is medicine initiatives across Texas. Before this internship, I had very little knowledge of Food is Medicine or what Food RX meant. I learned that it is a movement that aims to provide food-based interventions to improve chronic diet-related diseases, especially among underserved communities. This can be through offering produce prescriptions, groceries, meals, or nutritional advice. Given that a large portion of our population lives in food deserts or areas with limited access to quality food, these programs are crucial for improving the health of communities. The concept of food deserts and inequities in health care was something I was aware of prior to this internship; however, I didn’t know much about the solutions being implemented to protect the health of those endangered and what could further be done to provide food assistance.” says Kalapatapu.

Kalapatapu says she learned about these solutions through research of targeted initiatives in the food and nutrition field, such as communities with limited access to healthy food and individuals with diet-related health diseases.

“I, along with our intern cohort, did a deep dive in order to retrieve more information about these programs, to review the targeted populations, successful outreach efforts, geographic location, and publications related to the work. Seeing the different approaches taken by many different institutions and non-profits across Texas taught me that deriving creative solutions to solve a common issue is very effective in igniting change,” says Kalapatapu.

After the cohort developed a list of 260 organizations working in the food as medicine space, they narrowed the list down to eight. Kalapatapu found talking to the representatives from these organizations was fulfilling.

She says, “It was incredible to see the passion and persistence of these employees. It was refreshing to learn about how much work is being done in order to assist underserved communities.”

Kalapatapu says this unique internship opportunity helped her realize that she wants to pursue a career that makes an impact on communities through both research and policy.

“I have always been very passionate about social justice and equity as a whole, but through this internship, I learned that working in the health equity and policy field is definitely something I should take into consideration. I’ve felt inspired by the work of the Center for Health Equity and hope to pursue my professional efforts to one day contribute to the well-being of individuals. much like the impactful efforts of the Center for Health Equity within our communities."