Online Program

Incorporating racial justice and health equity into the curriculum: A journey of student-led organizational change

Monday, November 4, 2013

Alicia Ridenour, MSW, MPH, School of Public Health, Boston University, Boston, MA
Valerie Jean Tobia, MSW, LCSW, MPH, School of Public Health, Boston University, Boston, MA
Nicole Belanger, MSW, School of Public Health, Boston University, Boston, MA
Amelia M. McGowan, MSW, ASW, School of Social Work, Boston University, Boston, MA
Katherine Marie Gillespie, MSW, LCSW, School of Social Work, Boston, MA
Issues: The World Health Organization defines health inequities as differences in health status between populations that are unnecessary and avoidable as well as unjust and unfair. Institutional and structural racism within our communities is a root cause of such inequities. Public health and social work competencies include the knowledge and skills needed to address health inequities, but programs often fail to fully prepare new professionals. Many programs remain rooted in a cultural competence framework, rather than integrating racial justice and health equity approaches throughout the curriculum. Description: A group of public health and social work students initiated an organizational change effort to better achieve this integration in their program. We will present an evaluation of this effort, including our challenges, successes, and lessons learned. Consistent with community organizing and organizational behavior principles, our tactics included: identification and alignment of key stakeholders, cultivation of community support, analysis of similar initiatives, and application of best practices in the field. Lessons Learned: As a result of our efforts: (i) students are encouraged to take the racial justice class earlier in their coursework, (ii) a faculty-wide social justice education training is scheduled, (iii) student orientation was redesigned to incorporate these themes, and (iv) an ongoing racial justice subcommittee was created. Recommendations: Next steps include ongoing monitoring of implemented changes for sustainability and initiating similar change efforts in other settings. Our experiences will be valuable for change agents striving to prepare students to work toward health equity at the local, national, and global levels.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related education

Learning Objectives:
Discuss the importance of a racial justice and health equity lens in graduate school curricula. Describe best practices for implementing a racial justice framework in master’s level educational programs. Analyze the challenges and successes of a student-led organizational change effort.

Keyword(s): Social Work, Public Health Education

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am one of the students who was directly involved in this organizational change effort.
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.