Health Policy & Planning Internships

photo of bike and pedestrian signThe Health Policy & Planning (HPP) Internship Program is designed to provide work opportunities and practical learning experiences in public health, policy, planning and public administration. Interns will work with the Health Policy & Planning (HPP) Division of the San Mateo County Health System. HPP works to promote health equity and improve the health and well-being for all who live and work in San Mateo County.

HPP Framework: Primary Prevention & Health Equity

There is a growing recognition that where we live, work, play and go to school shapes our health opportunities and quality of life. HPP work focuses on making and influencing changes to these environments in order to maximize health and equity and create the conditions that enable all San Mateo County residents to live healthy lives. HPP has a particular focus on supporting low-income people of color communities with the fewest resources and highest rates of preventable health issues. To achieve our goals, HPP employs expertise in policy, planning, research, equity, epidemiology, communications, and advocacy. 

HPP is currently focused on three key arenas of work: 1) Built Environment: advancing public transportation, active transportation, and equitable smart growth land use practices; 2) Food/Beverage: increasing healthy food access and water consumption, lowering the consumption of sugary drinks, and creating sustainable food systems; and 3) Schools/Education: creating healthy school, after-school and childcare environments through wellness policies, systems change and youth leadership. To learn more about HPP’s work visit  

Focus of Internship Projects

Project Overview: Healthy Communities PSE Assessment
The focus of the internship project will be to help develop and conduct a policies, systems and environment assessment of cities across San Mateo County. Policy, Systems and Environments (PSE) in a community refers to the laws, rules and interventions implemented to shape the physical, social or economic landscape and make the healthy choices the easy choice for all community members. Local government bodies play an increasingly important role in shaping residents health outcomes – whether it is through polices that increase access to affordable healthy foods and public transportation, interventions to incorporate sidewalks, bike lanes, parks into community design or systems level change that requires departments to consider the health impacts of all new projects. 

The Health Policy and Planning Intern will help HPP measure the extent to which cities are engaged in making policy, system and environmental (PSE) changes to create a healthy environment for its residents. As part of this assessment, the intern will help: 
1)    Identify the recommended local PSE strategies that increase access to healthy foods and improve the built environment through land use and active transportation practices. 
2)    Conduct an assessment and collect information about PSE practices across cities in San Mateo County via online research, surveys, and in-person interviews.
3)    Create a database of PSE strategies by city. 
4)    Analyze the data collected, identify recommended next steps for HPP and write a brief report outlining the findings.

This assessment will enable HPP to build stronger collaborative relationships with local jurisdictions, strengthen HPP’s ability to effect sustainable change and tailor technical assistance to meet the needs of cities.  In addition to the project mentioned above, the intern may be assigned additional work in the areas of 1) Built Environment and 2) Food/beverage. 

Project Overview: Get Healthy Case Study
The focus of this internship project is to help develop case studies for 17 projects funded by HPP’s Get Healthy Community Implementation Funding between 2013 and 2014. Every fall, Get Healthy awards a total of $100,000 - $150,000 in funding to community and faith-based organizations, nonprofits, cities, and schools in San Mateo County for place-based primary prevention and health equity efforts and projects. The main goal of the Community Implementation Funding program is to support community partner’s efforts to advance policy and environmental changes to the school, food and built environments, where we live, learn, work, and play. This helps make the “healthy choice the easy choice” for everyone in the San Mateo County.

During 2013 and 2014, Get Healthy funded projects within the following three focus areas: healthy foods and beverages, healthy places and active transportation and school wellness. These projects range from the construction of a new community garden for healthy eating and nutrition education, creating an advocacy campaign to reduce consumption of sugary drinks to increasing safety for walking, biking, and taking public transit. These case studies will serve as a mechanism to record the successes achieved and lessons learned by projects funded through Get Healthy and provide best practices and strategies for HPP to share with community partners to further advance health equity in San Mateo County. Specifically, the case study publications will be showcased on the Get Healthy website and shared via the Get Healthy newsletters.

As part of this internship, the intern will

  1. Design a uniform template for the case studies
  2. Develop a set of questions to use in information gathering for each project.
  3. Conduct an in-depth review of the project and collect project-related information via online searchers, existing documentation on projects and interviews with project participants.
  4. Undertake qualitative and quantitative research as needed, analyze the case study evidence, and report findings.  
  5. Draft brief case studies.


  • Current undergraduate and graduate level students and recent graduates — up to one year after graduation date — are eligible to apply. You may not be a current San Mateo County employee.
  • Successful applicants will demonstrate one or more of the following:
    • You, or a member of your family, have been adversely affected by health inequities related to any of the following:
      a) systemic failures of the social, physical or economic environment
      b) limited or no access to health care
      c) live or grew up in a low-income neighborhood
      d) are the first in your family to attend higher education
      e) have experienced discrimination due to race, ethnicity
    • Have a passion for addressing health and inequity, and have experience working in programs that address health inequities. This can be through a multitude of intervention types and variety of locations or organizations.
  • Health Policy and Planning is seeking students who are highly motivated, hardworking, team players, responsible, and creative. HPP is a fast-paced environment where organizational skills and self-motivation are critical.

Internship Term & Pay

The HPP Summer Internship program is from June through August and the Fall/Spring Internship is from November through April.  Reasonable timeframe adjustments can be negotiated. Interns must commit to working a minimum of 32 hours per week for the Summer Internship and 16 hours per week for the Fall/Spring Internship. Graduate students are paid $18.91 per hour.

How to Apply

We are now accepting summer internship applications. The deadline is 5:00 p.m. PST on February 21, 2015.  Internship applications should be submitted to or faxed to (650) 377-1967 with the required attachments below. Only completed applications will be reviewed.  Please contact us if you do not receive confirmation that we received your application. If selected, you will be invited for an interview. In-person interviews are strongly preferred, but telephone interviews can be arranged if needed.

  1. Cover letter
  2. Completed application with supplemental questions
  3. Resume


Have questions? Please review our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) or contact:

Rosa Torpis
Program Coordinator
225 37th Avenue, 3rd Floor
San Mateo, CA 94403


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