travelled abroad last summer as part of the SPH global field experience.
reached through the Dornsife Global Development Scholars program, including Zambia, Malawi, Senegal, Ghana, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Kenya and Zimbabwe.
organized by Student Government this academic year.
Philadelphia BIKESHARE RIDERS will be recruited to participate in a Drexel-led study to assess impact of program on physical wellness.
HOURS practical experience each full-time MPH student obtains before graduation.
graduate students who receive financial support
77 of 115 full-time MPH (class of 2016)
35 of 47 doctoral students (all years)
Undergraduate public health students discuss the findings of their final projects in class with Jennifer Breaux, DrPH, MPH, CHES, director of Undergraduate Education and an assistant teaching professor in Community Health and Prevention.
EXPANDING EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING TO UNDERGRADUATE MAJORS
A DOZEN YEARS AFTER the Institute of Medicine issued its report “Who Will Keep the Public Healthy” calling for all undergraduates to have access to education in public health, the Drexel School of Public Health is celebrating its first class of undergraduate public health majors.
“This pre-professional bachelor of science degree in Public Health offers Drexel undergraduates a wide variety of public health classes while staying true to our School’s focus on health and human rights and capitalizing on our emphasis on experiential learning,” said Jennifer Breaux, DRPH ‘11, MPH ‘04, CHES, assistant teaching professor in Community Health and Prevention and director of Undergraduate Education in the School of Public Health. “Originally sparked by a request from senior leaders at the University and supported by Dean Emerita and Professor Marla Gold, MD, our new undergraduate major allows us to offer a generalist undergraduate degree in complement to our graduate degrees. The timing coincided perfectly with the School’s move to the center of Drexel’s University City campus, where the majority of students are undergraduates.”
In line with the ASPPH Framing the Future initiative, Drexel undergraduates in the minor curriculum take four core Public Health courses. In the major, students take thirteen core and five elective Public Health courses from each concentration, along with coursework in general education, physical and life sciences, and social sciences. They also complete a public health capstone project.
With more than 30 students coming through the doors of the Undergraduate Education office on the first floor of Nesbitt Hall each quarter, undergraduate advisor Karen DeVose enjoys seeing the excitement of the students who choose to study public health. “It’s fulfilling to see an 18 year old put a public health name to what they want to do,” says DeVose.
In June 2016, the first two undergraduate majors will proudly receive their Bachelors of Science in Public Health from Drexel University (see Pioneering Students, right). But until then, says Breaux, “they’ll be spending their next few months on Drexel Co-op and completing their capstone projects.”
The Undergraduate Education team is now working on plans for an accelerated BS/MPH 4+1 program, to start enrolling students in the Fall of 2016. Students in this program will gain an unmatched level of real-world experience by completing a Co-op and capstone projects as undergraduates, followed by a practicum and Community-Based Master’s Project (CBMP) experience during their MPH curriculum. “This sets our students up for professional success,” says Breaux. Current undergraduates who decide to enter the full-time or Executive MPH program at Drexel can already place out of certain MPH courses.
SPH Undergraduate classes offered
Drexel Undergraduates students taking PH101 this year
Undergraduate Dornsife Global Development Scholar
(inaugural class in 2014-2015)
(started in 2011) representing five different Drexel schools: College of Arts and Sciences, LeBow College of Business, College of Nursing and Health Professions, Goodwin College of Professional Studies and the College of Engineering
FALL 2011: Undergraduate minor began
FALL 2014: Undergraduate major began
SPRING 2016: Undergraduate first majors to graduate
FALL 2016: Accelerated BS/MPH 4+1 program projected to start enrolling
Current Masters of Public Health students are among those participating in the MPH Redesign Task Force meetings and focus groups.
The School of Public Health is undertaking a review and redesign of its MPH degree program. A task force was launched by Dean Diez Roux last fall, charged with developing a curriculum that incorporates novel and state-of-the-art thinking on public health education, assures that MPH graduates are well prepared for the expanding context and content of public health in the 21st century, and capitalizes on the strengths of the School’s areas of concentration, while allowing flexibility and tailoring to student interests. The objective is to redesign the MPH curriculum to assure that our students will continue to be well prepared to be public health professionals and leaders in the field of population health, on a local and global stage.
In addition to his roles as associate teaching professor and interim chair of the Department of Health Management and Policy, Dennis Gallagher is serving as chair of the School’s MPH Task Force, a team of faculty, staff and students who are tasked with designing a new MPH curriculum.
“We aim to create a unique MPH program that is innovative, integrative and individualized, and which assures that every student has a meaningful learning experience,” Gallagher said.
The MPH Redesign Task Force has spent the past six months meeting with students, faculty and alumni. In early 2015, all MPH graduates from the School of Public Health were asked to provide feedback on the curriculum through an online survey. That feedback is being combined with comments from current students and MPH alumni collected in person at town hall forums and focus groups.
“I think the most exciting thing happening at the Drexel School of Public Health right now is the redesign of the MPH curriculum, said second year MPH student Caitlin O’Brien, who sits on the Task Force and is concentrating in Health Management and Policy. “The Curriculum Redesign Task Force has been committed to developing an educational experience that will allow for significantly more flexibility, integration and rigor. Task Force members have been quick to think about the student perspective and are enthusiastic about creating a curriculum that will better meet students’ needs. When I leave these meetings, I often find myself wishing that I could come back to Drexel a few years down the road to partake in the new directions that the Task Force is discussing.” This spring, the Task Force is meeting with faculty, departments and external partners to refine and further develop curricular changes. They are on track to have a redesign report and proposal completed before the end of the academic year.
“I think the most exciting thing happening at the Drexel School of Public Health right now is the redesign of the MPH curriculum”
— CAITLIN O’BRIEN, second year MPH student
“We aim to create a unique MPH program that is innovative, integrative and individualized, and which assures that every student has a meaningful learning experience.”
—DENNIS GALLAGHER, professor and interim chair, Department of Health Management and Policy
Teaming up with community partners throughout Philadelphia, researchers from Drexel’s School of Public Health are helping drive efforts that benefit individuals, neighborhoods and the city.
Drexel’s work on varied issues and approaches has a common focus: to translate knowledge into action by partnering with communities and diverse organizations in ways that improve health and well being for all.
BUILDING RESILIENCE IN FRONT-LINE LEADERS
THEY ARE THE FIRST to step forward to calm a brewing crisis, support grieving neighbors or find resources that can fill an empty pantry or provide emergency housing. They are the neighbors who live, work and give back, 24/7, to their communities.
Local leaders — block captains, clergy, teachers and organization volunteers — take on difficult responsibilities without question, sharing their neighbors’ emotional pain, traumatic experiences and life stressors, while adding to their own.
Drexel researchers Nicole Vaughn, PhD, assistant professor in Health Management and Policy, and Crystal Wyatt, community research coordinator, were working on a violence prevention initiative when they heard neighborhood leaders talk about needing respite and time to share together. “Those concerns resonated with us,” said Vaughn.
Fast-forward to the Drexel team meeting Carey Davis, DMin, director of CityLights Network. The organization links groups and residents of Southwest Philadelphia, a neighborhood it describes as “a diverse community of promise and struggle.”
Davis also had been thinking about how to help area leaders. “I was noticing a deep sense of fatigue in some of our community partners,” she said. “They seemed really saddened, frustrated and overwhelmed.”
Knowing leaders are key to sustaining neighborhoods, the researchers and Davis discussed ways to reduce leaders’ stress and support their resilience. The Drexel team thought to apply the Sanctuary Model®, developed by Sandra Bloom, MD, associate professor in Health Management and Policy. Bloom’s evidence-supported work changes organizational culture through understanding the physical, psychological and social effects of trauma.
Would it be possible, the researchers wondered, to apply those trauma-informed principles to support leaders of communities who vicariously bear the chronic stressors — violence, job loss, abuse or neglect — of those they serve?
The resulting research project, a Drexel partnership with CityLights, was conducted with an initial group of 13 Southwest Philadelphia leaders. They met and discussed their stressors, coping mechanisms and complex feelings about their communities and work. Participants brainstormed self-care ideas and tools for dealing with trauma. Bloom conducted a mini-session of Sanctuary® training, enabling the group to “make connections they would not necessarily make between what they have experienced and the way their bodies, minds and souls have reacted,” she said.
The study identified types of stressors and coping strategies, and demonstrated that this group of leaders exhibited high compassion, low burnout and low secondary trauma. “These leaders are resilient. Asking them what they need is important and finding ways to support them is crucial to building communities,” said Vaughn. “They will be doing this work long after the research is finished.” The research findings were presented at the 2014 meeting of the American Public Health Association (APHA) in New Orleans.
Currently, under CityLights’ guidance, three follow-up workshops have been held to build connections and strengthen resilience for the initial leaders group and others. In March 2015, a session was given to teachers and staff from an elementary school located near CityLights’ home, an old stone church in the heart of Southwest Philadelphia. The Drexel team and Davis are now forming a proposal for expanding these types of efforts.
CUTTING SALT TO LOWER STROKE
WITH HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE affecting 40 percent of adult Philadelphians and nearly 50 percent of African American residents, Philadelphia’s public health officials wanted to take action. Hypertension, which can lead to stroke, may be lowered through changes including reduced sodium intake. So a campaign to cut salt became a priority.
To understand the impact of their media campaign, the city enlisted a Drexel evaluation team led by Ann C. Klassen, PhD, associate dean for research and professor of Community Health and Prevention.
“Our department has a long history of working with Drexel’s School of Public Health. The expertise of the faculty has helped us shape city interventions and has aided us in implementing them,” said Giridhar Mallya, MD, MSHP, director of policy and planning for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.
Formative evaluation began with focus groups of African Americans, aged 40 to 60, the campaign’s target audience. Groups were asked what they knew about sodium, how they received health messages and which media they used. Drexel’s team included a health communications expert, Suruchi Sood, PhD, associate professor, and Amber Summers, PhD, RD, an adjunct instructor and nutrition specialist.
Responses revealed a key factor: “People know the relationship between salt and high blood pressure, but don’t connect the dots between salt, hypertension and stroke,” Klassen said.
The team shared their findings with the city and its media partners to inform messaging for a citywide campaign. “Reduce the salt. Reclaim your health,” emphasized that eating too much salt can lead to debilitating stroke. Campaign messages, featuring local stroke sufferers and urging sodium reduction, ran throughout the city from June to November 2014 and January to April 2015.
SPH graduate students conducted baseline awareness surveys at supermarkets and on streets, then monitored when ads appeared on the sides of buses, in subways and during radio airtime. Follow-up surveys will gauge campaign impact.
“People were ready for this campaign,” said Klassen. “The design ensured that it met people where they were.”
MEASURING THE RIPPLE EFFECT
IN OTHER PARTS of the city, Drexel researchers are incorporating research into ongoing projects to gauge the impact of interventions and identify scalable opportunities.
Rabbi Nancy Epstein, MPH, associate professor in Community Health and Prevention, has been evaluating city employees and community members trained in the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) program for the last few years to learn how their knowledge and abilities to respond to signs of mental illness and attitudes of stigma have changed. Now, Amy Carroll-Scott, PhD, MPH, assistant professor in Community Health and Prevention, is building on that work and looking at the “ripple effect” of that training on those helped by First Aiders when they exhibit mental distress.
Her team is providing technical assistance to the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services to enhance MHFA training monitoring, set up citywide behavioral health indicator surveillance, and learn where First Aiders live and work. That will allow them to detect associations with behavioral health indicators over time — such as behavioral health service utilization or psychiatric hospitalizations — in areas of the city where aiders are spatially clustered.
Carroll-Scott hopes to extend the work by applying for funding to study the impact of MHFA training on school climate, behavior outbursts, and disciplinary actions. Data from a school where a large proportion of staff and teachers were trained in MHFA would be compared with data from a school with comparable sociodemographics but no training. “This will set us up to measure the important impact at the community level, in neighborhoods,” Carroll-Scott said.
IN THE CITY’S MANTUA SECTION, SPH members of the Urban Design & Health team, a joint project with the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, will be evaluating children’s activity levels and social behaviors at Morton McMichael School, an elementary school. Baseline data will be collected before construction of a long-awaited playground featuring sustainable landscaping and an electronic jungle gym.
“Right now, it’s just a big concrete area,” said Yvonne Michael, ScD, associate dean for Academic and Faculty Affairs and associate professor in Epidemiology and Biostatistics. “We’ll observe again after the playground is in, to see what changes have happened as a result of the new infrastructure.”
Carey Davis, DMin, director of CityLights Network, is partnering with Drexel researchers to apply trauma-informed principles to support community leaders.
Drexel researchers optimized messaging and conducted intercept studies throughout the city to assess the impact of a multi-media campaign implemented by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health aimed at reducing sodium intake.
IT TAKES A BROAD RANGE of actions and policies to substantially improve the health of many. A sampling of Drexel efforts in the community, as highlighted in this edition of Interaction, are reaching across the city in an effort to evaluate how many different contexts and environments affect health.
New directions in urban health research and action
A symposium hosted by the Drexel University
School of Public Health
September 10 & 11, 2015
The symposium will bring together researchers, practitioners and policy makers focused on health in cities to energize work on urban places and health, generate novel ideas for research, and stimulate debate on policy implications. Participants will reflect critically on the links between urban environments and health, identify new opportunities for research (including novel data and methodological approaches), and consider implications for community action and policy. Topics include: Health challenges facing cities today; Novel uses of data and methods in urban health research and action; Using the tools of complex systems to understand urban health; Urban planning and health — past and future; and Policies and community action in urban health.
Space is limited and advance registration is required. Poster submissions will be accepted. publichealth.drexel.edu/urbanhealthsymposium
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