The Western Transportation Institute is pleased to announce that Jen MacFarlane has transitioned from a temporary to permanent position as a public health research assistant. Originally from Colstrip, Montana, Jen is a student of both Montana State University and the University of Montana, where she earned a B.S. in Health and Human Performance and is currently working towards a master’s degree in Public Health.
With two decades of public health experience, Jen has devoted herself to helping Montanans. Her first public health position, as an AmeriCorps volunteer in West Yellowstone, focused on substance abuse prevention. Jen has since worked, and lived, across Montana developing programming for HIV prevention, tobacco use prevention, diabetes and hypertension, and other chronic health conditions. Most recently, she worked at the Gallatin City-County Health Department where she focused on chronic disease prevention and forming the department’s Cultural and Linguistic Appropriate Services committee. Jen also focused on coalition building and policy change; she was instrumental in the adoption of local policy that recognized e-cigarettes in the Clean Indoor Air Act and the inclusion of health-promoting language in the Gallatin County Growth Policy, Triangle Trails Plan, and Triangle Transportation Plan.
However, Jen’s professional passion is creating opportunities for and promoting, physical activity in communities. This led her to recognize the physical activity barriers related to the built environment, including transportation. At WTI, and as practical experience through her master’s program, Jen has worked to reduce activity barriers by installing traffic calming projects, educating students with bike rodeos, and creating a Traffic Calming Primer. She is currently assessing whether Montana’s ten most populous counties are including health performance measures in their transportation plans, thereby gaining insight into how, and if, local governments recognize the intersection of health and transportation. Long term, Jen’s goal is to create cross-sector collaborative efforts that lead to healthy communities.
Jen spends her free time with her family: three children, her husband, her parents, two dogs, a cat, a goose, and seven chickens. Because her children are nearly grown, they focus on the “fun stuff” such as running, biking, skiing, and backpacking. Jen is also a potter, a soapmaker, and a middle school cross-country and track coach. Once she completes her master’s degree, Jen plans to spend more time coaching and traveling. The first trips on her bucket list: bikepacking in Europe, and hiking in Peru.