204799 University of Washington “community development for health” class invites a mobile homeless encampment to the Seattle campus

Tuesday, November 10, 2009: 4:32 PM

Amy Hagopian, PhD , School of Public Health, Dept of Global Health, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Peter House, MHA , Dept of Health Services, University of Washington School of Public Health, Seattle, WA
Joy Hamilton , School of Public Health, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, WA
Purpose: University of Washington School of Public Health faculty who had taught a community development class for a dozen years transformed the curriculum this year to involve students in an experiential service learning project. The public health profession has traditionally focused on the proximate causes of morbidity and mortality, rather than the fundamental issues that lead to those manifestations of poor health. These underlying factors include poverty, isolation, alienation, powerlessness, and other factors that are best addressed by social activism rather than medical intervention. An interdisciplinary group of students (undergraduate and graduate students) worked with a team of faculty from across campus to gain knowledge of community development theory and build skills while carrying out this innovative project.

Data & Methods: Students explored the determinants of health and gained community organizing skills through the project of bringing Seattle's self-governed Tent City to the U.W. campus. Students learned the power of social capital and community factors in promoting health while working with Tent City residents, University officials, and the campus community to welcome the encampment to the UW campus.

Results: Students took the lead in organizing to bring Tent City to the University of Washington, while creating joint learning opportunities for Tent City residents and UW students.

Conclusion and recommendations: Interdisciplinary faculty, using a public health framework, can take on a challenging (and even politically controversial) issue to create genuine and authentic learning opportunities around the determinants of health, while offering real benefits to an underserved population.

Learning Objectives:
1. Construct learning objectives for a community development class aimed at engaging students in a problem-based learning approach to homelessness in an urban area. 2. Think creatively about using public health education as a means of engaging students in solving real-world public health problems.

Keywords: Public Health Curriculum, Homeless

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I was a student in the "Community Development for Health" class that is being described in this session. I participated in all the activities and remain involved in the effort to bring a tent city encampment to our university campus.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.