Public Health Buckeyes: Neha Checka

BSPH student uses advocacy to improve social, health equity

January 24, 2022
Neha Checka

Each month, the College of Public Health shines a spotlight on one of its students. For January, meet Neha Checka, a third-year student majoring in public health sociology with a minor in computer science. Since childhood, Checka has been passionate about social and health equity.

Can you give us some background about you?

My parents immigrated to America from India, and I was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. Since middle school, I’ve been highly involved in advocacy. Last year, I was able to grow a social media platform to raise awareness about social issues that South Asians experience in the U.S. Through my involvement with the United Nations Association student organization, I was also able to host a virtual panel about mental health among Indian farmers and a meet-and-greet with famous South Asian influencers. This event amassed 800 attendees. Furthermore, I was a panelist for Asians for Biden to inspire more people to vote and speak out against injustices in their community. I’ve been featured on a podcast to talk about cultural and academic pressure. In high school, I organized a TEDx conference, bringing in speakers from across the country to discuss topics such as mental health, medical innovation, entrepreneurship and activism.

Why did you decide to pursue public health at Ohio State?

In high school, I volunteered at a hospital, which spurred my interest in health care. While shadowing in a clinic located in an underprivileged area, l saw a diverse array of patients, many of whom lacked health literacy and were uninsured. Through this experience, I witnessed the gravity of health care disparities and inefficiencies. I decided to pursue public health because I hope to improve policies relating to the causative factors of these issues. I hope to implement upstream solutions to improve health care equity and accessibility.  

What are your goals after receiving the degree?

I am thinking about pursuing health policy. Improving health care legislation, as well as the connection between hospitals and the government, is a key way to reduce issues in health care. I hope to be involved in creating community-based health programs to improve access to proper health care across the world, and I’m also considering going to law school.

Are you involved in any academic, professional or student activities?

Last summer, I was an intern for Cardinal Health’s Global Business Segment working on communication and engagement. I helped create a public health scorecard by researching access to health care in Columbus, as well as helped plan a town hall for approximately 1,000 individuals.

At Ohio State, I’m president of the United Nations Association, which is a chapter of the student advocacy organization Collegiate Council on World Affairs. We focus on topics like refugee rights, criminal justice reform, COVID-19, LGBTQ+ rights and racial equity. I also plan mock conferences to prep our Model UN team members. My freshman year, I was the secretary for Blueprints For Pangaea, which reallocates unused medical supplies to areas of need.

What have you taken away from these experiences?

Both my coursework and extracurricular activities have made me a stronger leader, problem solver and analytical thinker. They have helped me understand how I can make a difference by standing up for communities that need it most.

What advice would you give incoming students? 

Take advantage of the opportunities outside of the classroom. Getting involved on campus has allowed me to make lasting friendships and make a change in the community. College is about discovery and finding yourself, so do not be afraid if you are still unsure of your path. 

What do you hope for the future of public health?

I hope that everyone has access to affordable health care.

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About The Ohio State University College of Public Health

The Ohio State University College of Public Health is a leader in educating students, creating new knowledge through research, and improving the livelihoods and well-being of people in Ohio and beyond.  The College's divisions include biostatistics, environmental health sciences, epidemiology, health behavior and health promotion, and health services management and policy.   It is ranked 19th among all colleges of public health in the U.S. by U.S. News and World Report, and also includes the top 7-ranked MHA degree program.  The College provides leadership and expertise for Ohio and the world through its Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Evaluation Studies (HOPES) and Center for Public Health Practice (CPHP).