Public health is an international field. Professionals within it have the responsibility of assuring that people across the world enjoy long, healthy lives – this requires significant knowledge, expertise and experience; students looking into this career often opt to study abroad in order to gain a deeper understanding of these unique global challenges.
Undergraduate public health programs are increasingly adopting study abroad programs into their curriculums to enable their students to gain cross-cultural competencies, increase confidence in serving culturally diverse populations, and meet discipline-specific accreditation standards. Unfortunately, institutional barriers often prevent this high impact practice from being fully realized.
This article investigates effective methods of integrating study abroad into public health curricula and minimizing barriers that impede program implementation. Following USF’s implementation of four different public health-focused study abroad courses as part of its Bachelor of Science in Public Health degree over four years, enrollment of undergraduate students grew from 12 to 164!
USF collaborated with an education abroad provider that could provide an infrastructure for curriculum design and program development while leaving trip planning and logistical management to its partners. By adding public health courses to existing education abroad programs, faculty could focus more on their pedagogy rather than logistics involved with their execution.
Studying abroad gives students an invaluable opportunity to observe how factors like culture, political systems, and economics impact public health initiatives, policies, and administration in foreign cultures. Furthermore, studying abroad provides an ideal setting to develop cultural sensitivity – something all aspiring public health professionals need in their careers.
By understanding how global issues contribute to poor public health outcomes, students can employ an integrative and comprehensive approach when solving health issues. Furthermore, studying abroad allows students to view themselves from another angle and become more adaptable and flexible workers.
Public Health and Social Policy in South Africa offers students an opportunity to visit local communities and engage in service-learning, learning how the intersection between community-level interventions and government approaches impacts public health. They will also explore different European cultures’ influence on lifestyle decisions and government policymaking through planned and unplanned excursions.
Students enrolled in Global Public Health in Peru will travel to Colombia for 10 days and observe how social factors, environmental conditions and infrastructure influence residents’ health. They will meet with local health and development professionals to gain more knowledge of community-led initiatives promoting positive behavioral changes for healthy living. For more information about this and other international travel opportunities available to SDSU students please see Aztecs Abroad website – all these experiences will prepare graduates to excel in any career that focuses on population wellbeing.