Geography of Health & Healthcare Student Lexi Nims Testifies in the Washington State Legislature!

Submitted by Nell Gross on

Having learned about the recent measles outbreak in GEOG 280 Geography of Health & Healthcare, UW sophomore Lexi Nims "found it fascinating to watch the geographical clustering of vaccine-hesitant parents in our state." So fascinating, in fact, that Lexi began to follow House Bill 1638 "Promoting immunity against vaccine preventable diseases" in the Washington State Legislature - and even testified in support of the bill at a public hearing! Please click here to view Lexi's testimony in full, and read below for Lexi's reflections on the impact of Professor Jonathan Mayer's GEOG 280 class on preparing for this unique advocacy opportunity!

On getting involved with HB 1638: "I believe this bill is a necessary step towards protecting children against preventable disease and fighting against future measles outbreaks. After showing such a passion for the issue, my mother [who is President of the WSPTA Board of Directors] asked if I would be interested in representing Washington State PTA to testify in support of House Bill 1638. PTA occasionally testifies for bills that protect the safety and education of children, so they were looking for a member to testify in support of House Bill 1638. They were especially interested in my perspective because I am a prospective public health student without children of my own. I was beyond proud to accept this amazing opportunity and stand up for what I believed in."

On deciding to take GEOG 280 in winter quarter: "I wanted to meet the geography requirement [for the public health-global health major], so I searched for a class that built off what I had already learned while providing me with a new geographical perspective. After finding Dr. Mayer’s introduction to medical geography class, I was immediately intrigued and wanted to learn more about how the study applies to public and global health. I was particularly interested in the focus on healthcare systems outside the United States because most of my healthcare knowledge has come from western practices."

On understanding geography through public health: "I had a lot of misconceptions about the study of geography because I had never taken a geography class before. I assumed that my medical geography class would be about how physical environments contribute to the spread of disease. However, I came to discover that geography studies much more than physical environments. Throughout the class, Dr. Mayer had us analyze locations through a political ecology framework to understand environmental, political, cultural, social, economic, and scientific determinants of disease. I was able to use this approach to write my final paper about effective strategies to tackle vaccine hesitancy in Washington state. My biggest takeaway from this class was the importance of multifaceted approaches that take non-medical influences into account when addressing healthcare issues."

On future plans at UW and beyond: "Before my testimony, I did not have much interest in the political side of healthcare. I understood the importance of it but never got involved myself. However, now that I have been involved in healthcare politics through my testimony, I want to continue advocating for community health concerns. During my time at UW, I plan to take classes that will increase my knowledge on the development and impact of healthcare politics so I can play a more effective role in events happening around me. I hope to apply this knowledge as I continue testifying on matters that are important to me throughout my time here."