COMMUNITY PARTNER PROFILE: JO PORTER IS WILD ABOUT DATA

--by Benice Atufunwa

For Josephine “Jo” Porter, MPH, the devil is in the details—or rather the data. In her role as the director of the Institute for Health Policy and Practice (IHPP), a research institution that studies the effects various health policies have on populations, Porter’s expertise in data collection and dissemination have been essential to understanding the research she works on. “I enjoy knowing the scope and depth of the issue. Data, as information, gives you the ability to go beyond the ‘What?’ and to the ‘What do we need to do about it?’” she explained. “I am a self-proclaimed data dork.  It makes me smile when I show data to people who are not ‘data people’ and have them then start asking all kinds of questions that dig deeper – it just proves that they are data people!”

Currently at the IHPP, Porter is working on researching and documenting the impact the Medicaid Program is having in New Hampshire. Thus far, they’ve published a number of pieces containing data and policy analysis meant to help guide stakeholder conversations on possible policy changes. “One of the very interesting pieces was the distribution of health insurance coverage on the Marketplace, and the differences in the percent of the population receiving subsidies to get coverage in different parts of the state,” said Porter. “It speaks to the importance for people in obtaining insurance coverage, which is a part of the policy conversation happening now.”

For Porter, the goal with this and all of the IHPP’s research is to improve access to healthcare and systems of care for both patients and providers alike. “I hope to continue to develop and disseminate work that has impact on the lives of people, through policy, intervention, and information,” said Porter who feels incredibly fortunate to partake in this endeavor with her “smart and talented” colleagues. The feeling is mutual. “Her dedication to putting research and knowledge to work to improve health and healthcare is a gift to us all,” says Ned Helms, the founding leader and former director of the IHPP. “I put a lot of myself into the Institute as its founding director. Knowing that Jo builds on that work and makes the Institute even better as my successor is very gratifying,” Helms praised.   

Beyond her work at the IHPP, Porter loves to play an active and supportive role in her community. One way she does this is through her work for the Nottingham Youth Association, an organization that provides local youth with the opportunity to play team sports. As the association’s co-chair for the past three years, Porter writes grants and organizes events among other duties. “We’ve been really successful with the number of kids we’ve gotten involved,” exclaimed Porter of the nearly 200 kids who play sports through NYA each year. “Not bad for a town whose K-8 school has about 600 kids in it.” Porter also gets out on the field and plays assistant coach to her husband, one of the association’s softball coaches, by warming up pitchers and keeping things organized in the dugout.