PhD candidate Jessica Andino has been awarded the 2023 Sprince Zwerling Award for Social Justice. This honor is given to a distinguished, well-deserving graduate student in the University of Iowa Department of Community and Behavioral Health who is pursuing an interest in addressing health disparities and alleviating social injustice. She was presented with the award by College of Public Health Dean Edith Parker at the Heal Equity Advancement Lab (HEAL) Summit on April 5.
Andino, who previously earned an MPH in community and behavioral health from the UI College of Public Health in 2016, studies the connection between housing and health. Research shows that households experiencing housing cost burden (spending more than 30% of income on rent, mortgage, and other housing needs) have increased stress and related mental health problems, and an increased risk of disease.
Her dissertation examines the impact of a specific type of affordable housing — manufactured home communities — on low-income residents’ well-being.
“Manufactured home communities are unique, affordable neighborhoods that may be a solution to the affordable housing crisis,” Andino says.
She was recently named executive director of the Johnson County Affordable Housing Coalition, whose mission is to increase access to affordable housing for low-income people in Johnson County (Iowa) through advocacy, education, and partnerships. In addition to serving as co-director of HEAL, Andino also has dedicated countless hours to volunteer organizations, including the Human Rights Commission for the City of Iowa City, Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa, Open Heartland, and the Housing Trust Fund of Johnson County.
“Previously serving as the chair of the Human Rights Commission for the City of Iowa City allowed me to see first-hand the urgency and necessity for all individuals to have a right to safe, stable, and affordable housing,” Andino says. “It is unjust to not have safe and affordable housing options in our community. By investigating the health of individuals in manufactured home communities, I not only am able to fill the gap in academic literature but also assist the affected communities in order to achieve future health equity.”
Andino’s career goals include continuing her position at the Johnson County Affordable Housing Coalition and becoming a faculty member at the University of Iowa.
“I also plan to lead collaborative housing research projects, housing program evaluations, and housing-related community assessments between community partners and others at the University of Iowa to create meaningful, positive changes for all residents of Johnson County,” she says.
The award is endowed by a gift from Nancy Sprince, professor emerita of occupational and environmental health, and her late husband, Craig Zwerling, professor emeritus of occupational and environmental health. Drs. Sprince and Zwerling served in senior leadership roles in the UI College of Public Health during a period spanning more than 20 years.