Maria Fernanda Mata, MA, Analyst, has experience in social science research, program development, public policy, and advocacy, particularly in the areas of community engagement, access to healthcare and social support, immigration, and social mobility. She is particularly interested in the application of quantitative and qualitative research to improve programs and services that empower racially and ethnically diverse communities. At Community Science, Maria is working to develop a tool kit that community- and faith-based organizations can use to reach and increase healthcare access for the most vulnerable populations. As part of this project, she is helping to identify strategies to educate communities of color and individuals with limited English proficiency, low literacy, or low health insurance literacy about the importance of obtaining health insurance coverage and the benefits of accessing preventive healthcare.
Prior to joining Community Science, Maria Fernanda served as programs research associate for the National Hispanic Council on Aging, where she led program and policy research on key issues impacting Hispanic communities, including health, retirement security, and access to social programs. She worked on the design, launch, and implementation of the online Medicare Fraud Prevention curriculum to support Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) staff members and also helped develop a counseling manual to train State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) staff on how to work with Hispanic beneficiaries in a culturally and linguistically appropriate way. This was a pioneering project funded by the Administration for Community Living (ACL) that led to the increased capacity of SMP and SHIP staff nationwide to implement successful outreach and education efforts for low-English proficiency communities. Maria Fernanda also coordinated the implementation and analysis of a survey of over 1,600 Latinos to assess their community engagement and access to social programs. This survey provided the data for a report and presentation on the status of Latino elders - and was the only source of information about Latino elders at the 2015 White House Conference on Aging. Maria Fernanda obtained her BA in sociology with honors from the Universidad Central de Venezuela and her MA in international affairs from Washington University in St. Louis.
In her spare time, Maria enjoys traveling, experiencing new cultures, and reading. Her favorite literary genre is magic realism and she especially enjoys the works of Gabriel García Márquez, author of 100 Years of Solitude.