Health Literacy, Health Communications, Health Education
Public Health Without Borders – Engaging Undergraduates in Global Health Learning Through Self-Directed Projects
(School of Public Health (UMD) Environmental Health Master's Student)
Introduction and Objectives: Public Health Without Borders (PHWB) is a student-run, student-led organization at the University of Maryland that engages in public health research and education globally. PHWB was originally formed in collaboration with Engineers Without Borders (EWB); however, the two Africa teams operate independently of EWB to provide community-tailored public health interventions. The Sierra Leone team has traveled twice and has completed hand washing and malaria education, interviews with Ebola survivors, and an ongoing evaluation of a primary school. The Ethiopia team has deployed three times and has focused on nutrition education, school vegetable gardens, and enteric disease prevention. Cultural competency is a core component of PHWB’s mission and practice. The main objectives are to instill public health education and cultural competency within these global placed based learning (PBL) projects through the collaboration of students, faculty and community partners. Approach: PHWB travel teams include faculty members, graduate mentors, and undergraduates. Both teams work closely with local primary schools, and faculty at a local Ethiopian university support the Ethiopia team. Each team’s first site visit primarily focuses on assessing the community’s needs. Subsequent trips focus on providing educational materials that were requested by the community and continuing needs assessments. Best practices for running such trips were compiled from undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty mentors. Findings: Traveling to Sierra Leone has provided students with an opportunity to learn real-life challenges with health education delivery in resource-limited settings and the value of evaluating health and educational interventions to determine impact and sustainability. Through travel to Ethiopia, students have learned how to provide culturally competent nutrition education, conduct needs assessments, and re-assess the overall direction of a long-term community project. Future teams to Ethiopia will focus on Oral Rehydration Therapy education for parents and teachers in conjunction with nutrition education. Conclusions and Public Health Significance: Designing global health education for undergraduates that is relevant and engaging is incredibly challenging. Such endeavors cannot replace classroom education; however, fieldwork helps students gain experience in field logistics, survey design, cultural competence, and educational product development.