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Major: Development and Cultural Change 

Minors: Anthropology

Graduation Year: 2016

Company: Contra Costa Health Services

Activities: Center for Community Involvement

Carrie Balthrop, Tobacco Policy Educator

carrie balthrop

Carrie Balthrop '16 is a senior health education specialists with the Contra Costa Health Services where she focuses on tobacco policy education. 

Q - Tell us about your job.

A - My job involves tobacco control policy compliance and enforcement. I oversee the work for two grants. One is through the California Department of Public Health. That one is focused on tobacco control policy. I provide technical assistance to jurisdictions in Contra Costa County and help them to create, implement and enforce tobacco control polices specifically around tobacco retailer licenses and smoke-free multi-unit housing.

The other aspect of my job is compliance and enforcement. I work with the sheriff's department to make sure that our tobacco retailers in the unincorporated county are in compliance with the laws we've set in place. I answer questions retailers have, help them get into compliance, and educate them on the laws and how they can be in compliance.

Q - How did you get the job you have now?

A - After I graduated, I started working for a nonprofit, federally-qualified health center, and I did some public health work there. It was more community outreach and engagement and health education. Then I was a dispatcher for the Oakland Police Department. I decided the skills that I have and the things that I'm passionate about were both better met — and I was better-suited — for doing public health work and engaging with the community in that way.

So, I found Contra Costa Health Services. I didn't necessarily know I was going to be doing tobacco prevention policy work, but I knew that I just wanted to go back into the public service, public health industry.

Q - What makes your work satisfying?

A - I love the education piece of it. It's with young adults and youth, but also I do a lot of education with faculty at schools, teaching them about the negative effects of vaping and tobacco use and also how prevalent it is again. We also talk about the way the tobacco industry has targeted youth, people of color and the LGBTQ+ community. Something I really find rewarding is educating people because when you have more education, you have more power.

Additionally, I really enjoy working with the retailers because I think they're a really important piece of this. They're just trying to make a living like all of us are. Tobacco, unfortunately, is one of their biggest sellers. We're taking a lot of their profits away. I like to bring them into the conversation because it's their livelihood, too, and encourage them to be leaders in the community, and show the community that they care about the health of the youth. Then I work to help them find alternatives like healthy retailing that can help supplement the loss that they're taking from not being able to sell tobacco products.

Q - How did Pacific help prepare you for your career?

A – In my classes, I was able to have those in-depth conversations about important things that play a role in my job even if it doesn't seem like it at first. For example, I took a class with Professor Mathis and there were four of us in the class. It was called Economy in Culture — just recognizing that economy and culture go hand-in-hand and how those things play out is helping specifically with the retailer piece. There's a culture around tobacco use.

And then outside of that, the skills that I've gained — having the opportunity to do group projects, organization prioritization. When I was at Pacific, I was also involved in community service fraternities, and I worked for the Center for Community Involvement, so learning how to balance things and communicate with people on a professional level.

Q - Do you have advice for anyone who wants to get into a job like yours?

A - You can use a lot of your skills from any major or any job you've had previously to fit into the role you want to have in public health.

I recommend looking for a community health worker position, and you can work your way up from there. Also, take any opportunity you have to volunteer or to join organizations that can help you in that field in the future.