Public Health Is ____

Many of my students would complete the title statement with something like, "The art and science of protecting and promoting the health of the public." This is the way that I defined the discipline for them in class. By this point, however, I believe that they are beginning to see Public Health as the multifaceted discipline that it is. There are few other areas of study that integrate so deeply with seemingly unrelated disciplines. Public health professionals may be faced with environmental, scientific, cultural, political, and economic challenges all within the same day. Take, for instance, the issue of school lunches. Most will agree that our children should be provided with the healthiest meal possible. If only it were that simple. In trying to make that simple provision school districts will run up against nutritional constraints, economic constraints, government mandates, parental opinions, and student desires. As is the case with most things in this world, Public Health is often a tangled mess. And that is why I love it. There is something appealing to me about a discipline that provides me with material to continually throw "yeah but" and "what if" questions at my students.

For this first unit my students were asked to investigate controversial, public health issues. Soon I will be posting the infographics that resulted from their investigations. The intent of the unit, however, was to introduce students to the multi-layered world of public health. Much of the inspiration for this unit was drawn from my time with North Carolina Prevention Partners. A brainstorming session with their staff (Most of whom hold MPH degrees) brought to light all of the foundational issues that students must interact with before diving into distinct questions. I will not say that students got a full immersion into the discipline through this first unit (we'll save that for their college days), but they were introduced to topics like the history of public health, heroes like John Snow, and the controversial nature of the discipline. With this foundation firmly in place students will, hopefully, be able to engage this semester's topics fully. Linda Yates and Chanese Latta were responsible for reflecting on the first full week of content. Below you will find their edition of the week in review.

Linda Writes:

On Monday, we talked about the difference between public health and medicine. Public health focuses on communities an populations a whole and the promotion of prevention for health hazards or factors. Medicine looks at the individual itself and focuses on diagnosing and treatment. We made animation to explain the difference and out understanding of the difference between the two topics.

On Tuesday, we took a closer look at public health and researched it’s history. We created a GoAnimate film about six major developments in the history of public health that we thought were the most important.

On Wednesday, the class discussed one of the most important contributors in public health history, John Snow. John Snow was a doctor who proved his theory that Cholera was caused by contaminated water and not by miasma (a very bad smell) like people thought it was. We played a game that had different scenarios and we had to say whether or not it proved Snow’s theory.

On Thursday, we worked on our controversial projects.

On Friday, Mr Kite wasn’t in class :( . But we continued to work on our controversial projects and prepared to present them on Tuesday.

So over the course of this week we actually started taking a step into talking about the basis of public health’s history and what it actually means.

Chanese Concludes:

This past week in our Disease and Society class we learned many things. At the beginning of the week we discussed the differences between good info-graphics and “not so good” ones. As the majority of us eagerly shouted the qualities of a bad info-graph, we all struggled to produce qualities of a good one. As Mr. Kite explained to us the qualities of a good info-graphic, the one that he stressed the most was to ensure that the pictures and the data match. Toward the middle of the week we discussed Dr. John Snow, an english doctor working in the 1850′s. He disproved the miasmas theory and proved his own theory that illnesses can come from water borne containments. Snow also was one of the first doctors to use anesthetics. At the conclusion of this week, we had a miniature project on different types of jobs within the public health field. The career that interested me the most was the International HIV Specialist, the investigative HIV and AIDS research they do is amazing and the places they are able to work intrigues my attention. Overall, this week was another success in Disease and Society. Stay tuned for our next exciting report!

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