Online Program

Community-driven service learning: Helping public health students link classroom material to policy change

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

M. Kate Stewart, MD, MPH, Office of Community-Based Public Health, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health, Little Rock, AR
Creshelle Nash, MD, MPH, Department of Health Policy and Management, Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR
Neil Sealy, Arkansas Community Organizations, Little Rock, AR
Ashley Bachelder, MPH, MPS, CPH, Office of Community Based Public Health, Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR
Jake Coffey, MPH, MPS, Office of Community-Based Public Health, Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR
Objectives: Holistic education requires strong theory, real-time exposure to issues, and opportunity to contribute meaningfully to a project advancing a cause that calls for action. We describe how these elements are incorporated in a graduate-level health disparities service learning course co-taught with a community partner.

Methods: Before the course, the faculty/community team selects a service learning project addressing a policy issue prioritized by the partnering organization, Arkansas Community Organizations (ACO). Faculty employ interactive pedagogy and ACO staff guest lecture and guide project implementation. Students interact with individuals directly affected through data collection and participate in reflection. Group data analysis and report writing result in a publishable product ACO disseminates to support its work. Example projects have included examining the health impacts of: neighborhood displacement through eminent domain for development, being uninsured, and Arkansas’s lack of an implied warranty of habitability law.

Results: ACO has valued having students and faculty partner on the work, and students have gained greater understanding of how policy and structural issues contribute to racial health disparities at individual and community levels. For example, students interviewed neighborhood residents to document their attitudes about a possible development that would displace them from their homes, attended public meetings, and observed direct actions by the “We Shall Not Be Moved” coalition. Ultimately, a non-residential area was selected. Another year, students interviewed uninsured Arkansans and later witnessed passage of Arkansas’ “Private Option” Medicaid expansion.

Conclusion: Community-academic service learning partnerships benefit community organizations and empower students with real-world applications of class material.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related education

Learning Objectives:
Describe the process used by this community-academic team to implement a community-driven service learning course project. Describe two issues tackled as community service learning projects to teach public health students about health disparities and policy change

Keyword(s): Community-Based Partnership & Collaboration, Advocacy

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a professor in the Health Policy and Management Department as well as the Director of the Office of Community-Based Public Health at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. I have been teaching about racial and ethnic health disparities and community-based public health for many years.
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.