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ORIGINAL RESEARCH ARTICLE
Year : 2016  |  Volume : 29  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 30-34

EpiAssist: Service-learning in public health education


1 Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Texas A and M University Health Science Center School of Public Health, College Station, USA
2 Center for Teaching Excellence, Texas A and M University, College Station, USA
3 Department of Student Activities, Texas A and M University, College Station, USA

Correspondence Address:
Jennifer A Horney
Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Texas A and M University Health Science Center School of Public Health, 1266 TAMU, College Station, TX 77843
USA
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/1357-6283.178925

Background: Although public health degree programs typically require practica and other field experiences, service-learning courses, with a focus on civic engagement and the application of classroom learning in real world settings, can go beyond these requirements and provide benefits to students and community-based practice partners. The goal of this paper is to assess potential benefits of service-learning programs for both graduate-level public health students and state and local public health agency partners. Methods: EpiAssist is a new service-learning program developed at the School of Public Health of the Texas A and M University Health Science Center, USA, in January 2015. EpiAssist was integrated into a new course, Methods in Field Epidemiology. The integration of service-learning was guided by a partnership with the Texas A and M Center for Teaching Excellence. Results: State, regional, and local public health partners requested EpiAssist via email or telephone. A listserv was used to recruit student volunteers to meet requests. 54 of 86 registered EpiAssist students (63%) participated in at least one of ten service-learning and three training activities between January and June, 2015. Service-learning activities included questionnaire development, in-person and telephone data collection, and data analysis. Training topics for students included the Epi Info software, community assessment and communicable disease reporting. Students and partner organizations provided generally positive assessments of this service learning program through an online evaluation. Discussion: Service-learning provides students with enhanced classroom learning through applied public health experience in state, regional and local health departments. These experiences provide both needed surge capacity to public health departments and valuable hands-on field experience to students.


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