Dr. Andress currently serves as an assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy, Management, and Leadership in the School of Public Health at West Virginia University. She has received funding to conduct research on important infrastructure issues in rural communities, with a focus on barriers to food access for Women, Infant and Children (WIC) clients and seniors in West Virginia as well as the policy process for built environment initiatives at the local level.
Dr. Andress has dedicated her career as a social sciences researcher and policy analyst to public service where her expertise lies in linking scholarly work with social issues, the public policy process, and community organizing. Her goal is to create a better society by connecting research and academic learning to community concerns and eventually public considerations.
For more than twenty years, she has provided community, media, and government relations to various non-profit organizations, government agencies, and elected officials. While serving as Managing Partner, Dr. Andress was responsible for guiding Andress & Associates to become a U.S. advisory firm on social and health inequities serving community-based organizations, and local and state health departments.
Connected to her broader interests in social justice and uneven power relations, Dr. Andress’ research interests have focused on policies affecting the social determinants of health, especially social and community development policies that result in health inequalities. This includes, but is not limited to, (1) the social determinants of health with respect to chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes and related policy solutions (2) the role that ideas, framing, narratives, and political ideology versus science, facts, and evidence play in policy discussions (3) how community civic capacity influences the policy making process and can shape a social determinants of health (SDOH) policy agenda, and (4) the ways in which the advocacy of different groups (corporations, communities, government, science) can influence policies affecting the SDOH.
Dr. Andress is also interested in nontraditional 'evidence tools' (e.g. health and social impact assessments, ethnographic techniques, framing analysis, content analysis, critical discourse analysis) as a means of improving the use of valid evidence in public policy decision-making.
Over the course of her studies, Dr. Andress has secured a Masters of Public Health and Ph.D. in Community Health Science (University of Texas Health Sciences Center, major in health policy; concentration in Management and Policy Sciences), and a law degree along with the Vinson & Elkins Public Interest Fellowship (South Texas College of Law).
Dr. Andress lectures on the public policy process, research methods, evaluation, Health in All Policies (HiAP), the social determinants of health, policy framing, and community organizing. Her research interests have included: framing public policies and agenda setting for the social determinants of health in the United States and Britain; qualitative research methodologies; building and measuring civic capacity; the effects of power on marginalized communities; a comparison and analysis of social capital and community building as levers for improved population health.
In the past, Dr. Andress worked for one of the leading U.S. experts on population health, Dr. Alvin Tarlov, at the Texas Program for Society and Health at the Baker Institute for Public Policy, Rice University. As the Director of Operations & Strategic Political Action, her work focused on research, policy advocacy, and message framing related to the social determinants of health.
As a creator of the “health equity readiness” concept, Dr. Andress has served as a leading advisor to several government agencies on policies, programs, and competencies related to social and health inequities. From 2007 to 2010 the Centers for Health Equity in Wisconsin and Louisville, Kentucky were created and launched under Dr. Andress' guidance.
During her career, she has served as public information officer and chief of public affairs for Houston’s Department of Health and Human Services; a legislative aide and press secretary in the United States House of Representatives (Texas 18th Congressional District); special projects coordinator for State District 25, Texas House of Representatives; and, Chief of Staff in Houston’s City Council-At-large Position 1. She has also served as executive director for a non-profit community-based organization whose mission was to raise awareness about and advocate for the needs of a marginalized community in Galveston, Texas.
Dr. Andress other interests include work as a journalist and copy editor for several Texas newspapers. She served on the editorial board of a local Texas paper contributing to policy discussions and writing editorials for the newspaper. She was an intern and project partner on several strategic frame analysis initiatives working with the Frameworks Institute and Cultural Logic.