Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy

Population Health and Health Policy

Brenda Joly

Associate Research Professor, Public Health
Brenda Joly


405 Wishcamper Center

Contact Information

Phone: (207) 228-8456

“Public health is a multidisciplinary field with opportunities for everyone. Our program is committed to making sure that our students have the knowledge they need to succeed and the skills necessary for improving the health of our communities.

- Brenda M. Joly, Associate Research Professor,  Master of Public Health Program, Muskie School of Public Service

Academic Degrees

M.P.H., University of South Florida, College of Public Health, 1997

Ph.D., University of South Florida, College of Public Health, 2001

As a graduate student at the University of South Florida, Brenda Joly remembers standing on a street corner counting bike helmets as children rode by.  That project was about bicycles and child injuries and it was the start of a career focused on improving the health of people and communities.

How can a public health system do a better job of reducing chronic illness and preventing premature death? This question is central to Dr. Joly’s research and teaching at USM. She takes a systematic approach to evaluating the performance of public health programs. “I study different types of public health interventions and try to figure out what makes them successful and what leads to better health outcomes for our communities.”

Dr. Joly teaches three courses in the Master of Public Health Program at USM: Social and Behavioral Health, Applied Public Health Research and Evaluation and Public Health Practice. When she is not teaching, she spends her time  evaluating public health efforts at the local, state and federal levels. Currently, she is part of a national CDC evaluation team looking at ways to improve the performance of state, local, tribal and territorial public health departments.

Cutler Institute awarded $600,000 to help youth raised in foster system

Marty Zanghi

USM's Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy has been awarded a $600,000 grant to help young people raised in Maine's foster system to prepare for college and the workforce.

The money comes from the Annie E. Casey Foundation as part of a $5.4 million national effort aimed at youth who are homeless or in either the foster care or juvenile justice systems.

"Many of these young people have suffered abuse or trauma and were raised in poverty and neglect," said Marty Zanghi, the Cutler Center's youth development director.

The money -- including an expected $400,000 more in matching funds -- will pay for contracted work with agencies in the target areas, starting with the greater Portland area and Penobscot, Kennebec and Somerset counties.

Nationally and in Maine, only about 3 percent of people who grow up in the foster care system achieve a college degree, he said.

"It's dramatically lower than the rate for the general population," Zanghi said. "It's a horrible outcome."

It doesn't have to be that way, though.

"There are young people that overcome these circumstances," he said. "I know people who have master's degrees and Ph.Ds."

The Casey Foundation's national effort is being called the "Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential" (LEAP) initiative.

The initiative is working on partnerships in Maine and nine other areas: Alaska, Arizona, California, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and New York. In each case, people will adapt two evidence-based models to meet the needs of these youth, including support to address the trauma they may have experienced in their lives.

In Maine, the work will include a pair of successful programs, Jobs for Maine Graduates (JMG) and Jobs for the Future. Results will be carefully tracked, Zanghi said.

After the first year, the program is expected to grow.

"Eventually, the additional help will be available to all children, 14 and over, in the foster care system in the state of Maine," Zanghi said.

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