You are here: Home / Communications / News / Katie Osterhage: Crossing Continents to Study Community Health Needs

Katie Osterhage: Crossing Continents to Study Community Health Needs

Research Coordinator Katie Osterhage's love for qualitative research and great curiosity for the unknown has led her to three different continents to study populations and their health needs. She helps manage the SOARING project at NWCPHP.
Katie Osterhage: Crossing Continents to Study Community Health Needs

NWCPHP SOARING Research Coordinator, Katie Osterhage, MMS, rides her bike in Eugene, Oregon.

Research Coordinator Katie Osterhage's love for qualitative research and great curiosity for the unknown has led her to three different continents to study populations and their health needs. She helps manage the SOARING project at NWCPHP.

October 1, 2014

Sometimes it only takes one class to open up a world of possibility. For NWCPHP Research Coordinator Katie Osterhage, MMS, a qualitative research methods class helped solidify her future career path. It was a love for qualitative, practice-based research, combined with a great curiosity for the unknown, which has led Katie to three different continents to study populations and their health needs.

"Previously, I had been more familiar with quantitative research; for example, the kind of statistics in journal articles I was typically reading as an undergrad," said Katie. "I'm a very curious person. I like to know 'why' about a lot of things. When I took my qualitative methods class, it felt like a natural fit because you get to know not only the 'what' that is happening, but you also get the opportunity to delve deeper with a person to find out the factors that influenced that 'what.'"

At NWCPHP, Katie gets to apply her love of qualitative research to her position as Research Coordinator for SOARING (Studying Older Adults and Researching their Information Needs and Goals). SOARING is a mixed methods study that looks at how adults over 60 manage their health information. She helps create the project's research instruments, conduct interviews, analyze the collected data, and manage the overall study. Findings from the five-year project will be used to create personal health information management systems that support health and independence for older adults.

"Qualitative studies—while on the rise—are not as common, so that was a really big draw for me and this particular position," said Katie. "I first heard about NWCPHP through a good friend in Oregon, who talked about how she had taken some of NWCPHP's online trainings. I thought it sounded really great. It's that intersection between people who are doing research and those who are actually practicing public health in communities that really drew me to the center. Additionally, I liked how I could apply the social and structural issues I've learned about in classes to the real world."

The SOARING project has also been a fun opportunity for Katie to meet and talk to people outside her usual crowd.

"On a personal level, one of the things, I've really enjoyed about the project is getting to talk to people who are older than me, who I might not get to interface with on a normal basis," she said.

Katie Osterhage in India

Katie's research interests and curiosity have also led her to other parts of the world. After growing up in the Midwest and receiving her BA from DePauw University, she decided to take a leap and move to Sweden to study International Health at Uppsala University. It was the perfect way for her to acquire the practical skills she needed while fulfilling a dream of living abroad. For her capstone project, Katie studied community knowledge and practices around reproductive health in rural India. After graduation, she worked as an American India Foundation Clinton Fellow for a small HIV/AIDS organization, helping them build capacity around qualitative research.

"I loved living in India," said Katie. "At first it was the biggest shock in every way imaginable. But I loved it. People were good to me in ways that I never expected, and I even came away loving spicy foods."

Now settled in Seattle, Washington, Katie has found that she's slowly converting to "Pacific Northwest" ways.

"I've gotten into hiking in the past year and went on my first backpacking trip at Enchantment Lakes," said Katie.

She's also training to run her first 10k at the end of October.

"I've always thought that people who like to run were a little bit crazy, and now I'm becoming one of those people," Katie joked. "It all started a few years ago when I started using a Fitbit to track how many steps I could do in a day. Seeing the number really motivated me to change how I get places, and now I try to walk to or from work each day. After that accomplishment, I thought, 'Ok, I can walk pretty well now; let's see if I can challenge myself a little more.' Running was a natural progression."

Outside of training for Halloween-themed runs, Katie also enjoys baking and making her own granola and cakes to share with the NWCPHP office. She also sings in a choir and enjoys taking Zumba classes. When she's not on the go, she can be found hanging with her much loved and "spoiled" cat, Charlie, or working on upcoming projects. Katie hopes to learn to sew this winter and is also going to assist with a Girl Scout troop a friend is starting, after many years of being a Girl Scout herself, and even managing adult volunteers.

STORY TO SHARE?

We love public health stories! We feature them in our postcard series, Spotlight on the Field, and news items. Please contact us to share your story!