Eileen Zinchiak brings 21 years of community health experience to Mercyhurst Institute for Public Health, with skills and expertise in working with groups and communities to form healthy lifestyles. Eileen’s background blends public health mission, project management, marketing, and grant writing to create innovative local programs addressing national and global health issues. Her public health campaigns are well known to residents of northwestern Pennsylvania.
Mercyhurst is home to Eileen, a graduate from the Class of 1980 with a B.A. in Liberal Arts as a Psychology major. She graduated Summa Cum Laude, first in the class, receiving the Archbishop John Mark Gannon Award for General Scholastic Excellence Award, the top academic recognition given by the College, as well as the Academic Excellence Award for the Social Sciences Department, with a 4.0 G.P.A. in her major. She was active in the College Senate, Campus Ministry, and the Egan Scholars program, earning Outstanding Egan Scholar of the Year 1979. Eileen was the first Mercyhurst student to continue graduate studies in health psychology, at the University of Miami, Florida. While there, she was awarded the U.S. Public Health Services pre-doctoral training grant for behavioral medicine research in cardiovascular disease. Eileen is also a charter member of the Mercyhurst O’Neil Society, established in 1990 for alumni giving.
At the Institute, Eileen will expand Mercyhurst’s role with regional and national experts and organizations, tapping her diverse community-based experience: wellness campaigns with adults and youth, community behavior change, worksite wellness, health care and environmental policy, nutrition advocacy, aging services, geriatric medicine, and youth technology and health care training programs.
She brings considerable expertise for large-scale population-based public health services. For 14 years, Eileen steered the region’s Influenza and Pneumonia Vaccination Campaign to vaccinate one-third of Erie County seniors annually. This public health effort received recognition by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and by the Pennsylvania Health Educators Institute, as one of Pennsylvania’s largest community-run efforts, using more than 500 volunteers. National public health officials recognized the County-wide pneumonia vaccination program as an important public health innovation in the early 1990s, as one of the first community immunization campaigns in the U.S. to increase vaccination rates when combined with offering flu shots. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation chose to videotape the local pneumonia outreach campaign for training purposes in 2005.
The Institute will tap Eileen’s experience using media and technology-based techniques for public health education. The use of TV and radio in social marketing strategies for health promotion earned national recognition of Erie and Crawford County public health campaigns, “Cut the Fat, Erie” and “Eat 5-A-Day of Fruit and Vegetables.”
Eileen’s research study to place nutrition information on menus in Erie-area restaurants in 2004 aided public health efforts only now being carried out by national restaurants. The local healthy restaurant dining project was designed with input from the Center for Science in the Public Interest and nutrition advocates. It was funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Pennsylvania Department of Health. From this work to tackle America’s growing obesity problem, the Pennsylvania Department of Health invited Eileen to assist in writing the State Obesity Prevention Plan in 2001.
She has also been a leader in community preventive health, working with the Pennsylvania Department of Aging. Eileen first piloted Pennsylvania’s falls risk assessment program with Erie County residents in 1998, then piloted the expanded falls prevention program of University of Berkeley for thousands of elders in 13 counties in northwestern Pennsylvania, in 2007. Eileen’s work received a major national award when she created a model walking, tai chi and nutrition program for older adults. It was selected as one of the top 10 most innovative physical activity programs in the country by the National Council on Aging in 2005.
Eileen has collaborated extensively with other local health and social service agencies. Her work was honored with the first Community Collaboration Award, bestowed by United Way of Erie County in 2005 for 60 partnerships created to provide preventive health services to local citizens. She will help lead the Institute using her expertise from professional leadership roles in 16 health-related organizations, and membership in numerous national, state, and local committees and task forces, plus government testimony, conference planning, grant writing, and outcomes evaluation in community health.
Eileen will be a familiar face to the public, as media spokeswoman for community health, TV host and frequent guest on TV and radio public interest shows, and health writer and frequent lecturer to workshops and civic groups.