Local public health

The fall 2023 class GHLT0257 (“Global Health”) is a broad foundations course that introduces students to public health and global health issues, trends, structures, and governance.  The course has lectures and weekly discussion sections.  Discussion section time can be devoted to working on a community-based project.

Middlebury Contact: Pam Berenbaum

The framework used in the class is the social and structural determinants of health:  the relationship of population and individual health to key determinants such as education, poverty, housing, food access, employment, violence, toxins, and health care access.  Also of interest are the structural determinants of health, the key issues that drive social phenomena, such as racism, rights, social conflict, and economic development.  A community-based partnership should help students understand the interconnected social forces that influence health disparities and inequities.

Prior to joining Middlebury College, I had a career in health services research, health economics, and public health service provision (most recently with the Epidemiology Field Unit of the Vermont Department of Health).  My areas of expertise are infectious disease, emergency preparedness, syndromic surveillance, survey design and analysis, and risk assessment.

The liberal arts model at Middlebury College emphasizes research, critical thinking, and writing skills.  It is important that students do *not* engage directly with vulnerable populations as part of the project, as the class is too large for me to oversee such engagement and the IRB timeline might not be accommodating.  The best opportunity is one in which students research various topics (using secondary sources and/or anonymous data) and present information in a way that is useful to local service providers.

For this class, the key learning goals of a community-connected project are to learn about and understand:

1) the health of Addison County residents, including opportunities for and challenges to health promotion;

2) the local service ecosystem of health care and social service providers;

3) how services are funded and administered by different types of organizations including government and the nonprofit sector.

The work should be contained within the College’s fall semester (Sept. 11 – December 11 2023).  It is possible that a few students could tie up loose ends and finalize a product as an independent study during Winter Term (approx. January 4 – February 4).

I would expect to begin conversations with my partner in July and/or August to discuss what is achievable by the students and to help me think through details that may be needed for Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval.  The partner should have a clear sense of which persons(s) at the organization will be the chief contact.

In previous semesters, students in this course have done these projects:

1) for Porter Medical Center, a review of best practices in rural health care provision to address challenges such as transportation barriers (see https://www.middlebury.edu/announcements/news/2020/01/students-turn-local-lens-public-health-issues for a description of this project)

2) for NEK Prosper! (accountable health community), a series of interviews of stakeholders and written summaries of their ideas for improved collaboration;

3) for OneCare Vermont/RiseVT, social media materials to promote the Dinner Together program.

Four students in a previous class also formed a team with me to analyze survey data and write the 2021 Community Health Needs Assessment for the Porter Medical Center service area (report available at https://www.portermedical.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/2021-CHNA-Approved-August-2021.pdf).

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