Introduction

Teaching about public health has never been more relevant than it is today. Public health “promotes and protects the health of people and the communities where they live, learn, work, and play” (American Public Health Association). Public health professionals work to prevent people from getting sick and injured by conducting research, recommending policies, and promoting practices to improve health. Teaching students about public health is important because public health initiatives impact people on a day to day basis. In addition, by learning about public health, students may be encouraged to improve their physical, mental, and emotional health and volunteer in local public health opportunities.

Resources

There are an abundance of resources available online for teaching students about public health. While Covid-19 continues to spread, students will find many articles in public health on the virus and how it is impacting Americans across the country. For educators who want to focus on public health and Covid-19, the news outlets listed with the informational sites will have everything they need. However, for educators who want to focus on public health in general, the lesson plans, articles, and informational sites below will be more helpful.

Lesson Plans

  1. Activities and Tools for Teaching Public Health: The Connecticut departments of Higher Education, Public Health, and the Office for Workforce Competitiveness has put together activities and tools for teaching public health for educators, counselors, and mentors who want to teach high school and college students about public health and volunteer opportunities in the field. Part 1 of the guide focuses on introducing students to public health in the classroom and contains a Public Health Career Quiz, a PowerPoint presentation on the basics of public health, and  public health classroom activities (online lessons, videos, and other resources). Part 2 attempts to engage students through public health community and career experiences by providing public health workplace learning opportunities and information on career pathways for public health professionals.
  2. CDC – Public Health Educational Activities: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has designed the CDC Science Ambassador Fellowship program which includes educational activities for the classroom on five themes in public health: an introduction to epidemiology, public health surveillance, investigating and outbreak, preparedness and response, and careers and roles in public health. The activities also focus on five skill sets: scientific design, identifying trends, decision-making, implementing action plans, and collaborative performance.
  3. Environmental Public Health: PBS Learning Media offers a collection on environmental public health, which provides resources on conditions and diseases, exposures and risk, research methods, community action, and health policy. Resources touch upon a variety of subtopics, such as unintended chemical exposures, the effectiveness of sunscreen, environmental hazards in the city, at the coast, and on the farm. These resources include videos, interactive self-paced lessons for students, lesson plans for educators to utilize in the classroom, and interactive lessons designed for professional development. 
  4. Teaching Public Health for Action: HealthKnowledge provides teaching resources to introduce students to public health. These resources include PowerPoint slides, tutor notes, and workbooks on child health, coronary heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. In addition, there are links to other teaching units developed by the London Teaching Network on basic epidemiology, blood pressure, mental health, obesity, respiratory diseases, screening, and smoking.

Articles

  1. Communicating, Motivating and Teaching the Significance of Public Health: IntechOpen provides information on public health from Current Topics in Public Health. Topics include the significance of public health, who is interested in learning about public health, what skills and competences are needed in a public health practitioner, the importance of knowing your students and identifying their particular skills, and guiding your students to generate actions in public health.
  2. Principles for Teaching Public Health: The School of Public Health at the University of Michigan has published an article on the principles for teaching public health. In the article, Mark L. Wilson reflects on the principles he believes has helped him become a more effective professor of epidemiology and of global public health. He discusses recognizing unevenness among students, sharing personal stories, using foreign examples and illustrations, exploring multilevel relationships, and more. Educators who are interested in improving upon their public health teaching skills should take a look!

Informational Sites

  1. APHA – What is Public Health?: The American Public Health Association (APHA) provides both a brief written overview of public health and a video explaining the field. There is a link at the bottom of the page that will take students to a list of ten essential public health services. Educators can use this resource to help students understand the framework of public health and how public health professionals protect and promote the healthiness of people in all communities.
  2. CDC – What is Public Health?: The CDCFoundation provides a brief article on how public health connects us all and how the CDC works to save lives and protect the health of Americans. The webpage also provides a link that will take students to public health stories, including public health professionals building critical connections to fight Covid-19 and tackling the opioid overdose epidemic.
  3. John Hopkins – What is Public Health?: John Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health offers an article describing the essence of public health. The article describes what public health researchers, practitioners, and educators do and the wide ranging areas that the public health field encompasses. Lastly, examples of real-life public work are provided, which will help students understand how important public health is to our daily lives.
  4. There are many news outlets and other organizations that report current news on public health topics. At the moment, much of the public health news focuses on Covid-19 and its spread in the United States. 
  1. Science Daily – Public Health News
  2. U.S. News – Public Health
  3. npr.org – Public Health
  4. The Scientist – Public Health News

Conclusion

Teaching about public health may not be the easiest topic to bring into the classroom, but it is an extremely important one. The more students learn about public health, the more they will understand how much of a role public health plays in their lives. Increasing life expectancies, reducing infant and child mortality, and reducing the spread of diseases are necessary for our survival, and public health professionals play a significant part in doing all of these things!