What impact does community service learning have on medical students' appreciation of population health?
- Publisher: Elsevier
© 2015 The Royal Society for Public Health. Objectives: The Bar Ilan Faculty of Medicine places public health as a priority in its medical curriculum, emphasizing its importance by strategically placing the required course as first on entry into medical school. Students are introduced to the importance of population health and community engagement through participatory community learning experiences. This study aims to examine how participatory community teaching methods impact students' understanding and attitudes towards community health. Study design: Mixed quantitative and qualitative design. Methods: 75 first year students completed the required public health course utilizing participatory community methods, including community visits, Team Based Learning, an ethnic forum, and lifestyle medicine. Evaluation comprised skills assessment through project work, analysis of reflective notes and comparison of assessment scores with students in the previous year who experienced a formal lecture-only based curriculum. Results: Students acquired public health skills, including conducting a needs assessment, searching for research evidence and designing an evaluation framework. Reflective notes revealed in-depth understanding not only of course aims, but an appreciation of the social determinants of health and the local community. Test marks indicated public health knowledge reached a comparable standard (83 ± 7.3) to the previous year (85 ± 9.3; P = 0.431). Conclusions: Participatory community learning equips students with public health skills, knowledge, and enhanced understanding of communities. It offers a way to effectively teach public health, while emphasizing the extended role and societal responsibilities of doctors.
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