Martin Downs, MPH — Principal
Martin Downs founded Variance, LLC to focus his complementary expertise in health communication and public health practice on studying and promoting sexual health. He brings a unique population health perspective to the field of sexual health policy and sexuality education.
He writes an advice column on sexual health that appears monthly in Penthouse magazine. His column is a trusted source of accurate and positive sexuality information for more than 200,000 readers in a demographic group that most sex educators do not reach.
As a graduate of the Master of Public Health program at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, he has solid foundational knowledge of population health and its determinants, health policy, systems thinking, and quality improvement; and he is skilled in the conduct and critical appraisal of scientific research.
Martin began his career as a health journalist. He started out at CBS HealthWatch, a pioneering consumer health news and information Web site of the early dot-com era, where he had editorial oversight of the site’s HIV/AIDS and sexual health content. He went on to write features, news, and educational content for WebMD, specializing in sexual health topics. He has written for many other publications, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, Salon, Health, Consumer Reports, the New York Press, and the Reuters Health news service.
In addition, Martin worked as general assignment reporter for the Valley News, an award-winning daily newspaper covering the Upper Valley region of Vermont and New Hampshire.
Martin’s consulting experience includes working at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, where he conducted research on community-based disease surveillance to advise the World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa.
Prior to starting Variance, LLC, Martin was Director of Public Health Programs at the Mascoma Valley Health Initiative (MVHI), a nonprofit public health organization that serves the Upper Valley region of New Hampshire. As program director for MVHI’s state-funded immunization outreach program, he developed innovative ways to educate the public and health professionals about immunization. One of the program’s standout successes came through his collaboration with Tiltfactor Laboratory, an academic game design and research lab at Dartmouth College. Tiltfactor and MVHI developed POX: Save the People, a game that simulates how widespread vaccination establishes herd immunity in a population.
Another major project he led while at MVHI was a community-based participatory health needs assessment for the region, funded by the US Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). This process involved engaging with residents and key stakeholders to understand the community’s self-perceived health needs and values. The process also included a data-driven assessment of population health risk factors and outcomes.