Online Program

Confronting biases and stereotypes: Best practices in developing cultural competence in college public health education

Wednesday, November 4, 2015 : 9:00 a.m. - 9:20 a.m.

Eva Goldfarb, PhD, MA, Department of Public Health, Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ
Stephanie Silvera, PhD, CPH, Department of Health and Nutrition Sciences, Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ
Developing empathetic, compassionate, culturally competent public health practitioners committed to reducing health disparities is a vital part of higher education public health training yet not easily attainable through didactic educational approaches.  The experiential activity described here encourages students to examine how biases can affect access to healthcare and health outcomes for various populations. This demonstration/presentation will include a discussion of implementation considerations and learning outcomes.

Working in small groups, students rotate through newsprint sheets with various headings: (e.g.: All-American young woman; HIV+ 20-something; Large, heavy young woman; Male athlete; Muslim male; Pregnant teen; Quiet non-athletic male; Recent Mexican/Latino immigrant). They are instructed to record on each newsprint: “What this person looks like, their health behaviors and health problems.” Groups then return to their initial newsprint and read classmates’ responses.  They are then instructed to imagine they are the person listed on the newsprint and consider if the list accurately describes them and what barriers they would face if they do have health problems.

Debriefing unpacks assumptions, stereotypes, and belief systems and includes discussion of racism, sexism, homophobia, and classism in public health including barriers that must be overcome to improve health outcomes of diverse populations.  The impact of this activity can be profound, often as students recognize themselves in some of the stereotyped groups.  By pressing students to confront their own biases directly, this lesson helps them explore, on intellectual and emotional levels, the potential impact of those biases as they prepare to become members of the public health workforce.


Learning Areas:

Diversity and culture
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related education

Learning Objectives:
Describe an experiential learning activity aimed at reducing bias and increasing compassion among undergraduate and graduate public health students. Identify at least three challenging issues in implementing this lesson in the classroom and ways to mitigate these challenges. Name at least three typical outcomes of this lesson that help to develop cultural competency, increase compassion, and reduce bias among public health students.

Keyword(s): Cultural Competency, Teaching

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: My primary field is higher education public health. I have developed and published (extensively) curricula and lessons in the area of public health. Further, I developed the initial lesson from which, together with Dr. Silvera, my co-presenter, I adapted the lesson presented here.
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.