Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Public Health

Training the Next Generation of Global Health Advocates through Experiential Education: A Mixed-Methods Case Study Evaluation

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Public Health

Training the Next Generation of Global Health Advocates through Experiential Education: A Mixed-Methods Case Study Evaluation

Article excerpt

Two of the emerging trends in Canadian post-secondary education that affect public health are a growing interest in global health and experiential education. The rising number of such programs and the increased interest among health professional students are well documented.1-3

Koplan et al. defined global health as "an area for study, research, and practice that places a priority on improving health and achieving equity in health for all people worldwide...[that] emphasises transnational health issues, determinants, and solutions; involves many disciplines within and beyond the health sciences and promotes interdisciplinary collaboration; and is a synthesis of population-based prevention with individual-level clinical care."4 Unprecedented levels of global interconnectedness have led to increased globalization within health care.1,5-7 The breadth and visibility of new challenges have catapulted global health concerns into the minds of students, who represent the next generation of health professionals and leaders.1,7-9

In this context, Canadian students have asked for increased global health education.10 Despite the demand, there is still disagreement on how to provide this education. For instance, it is debated whether students should receive hands-on experience in a " global health setting "- whether at an international institution or in a low-income country - particularly since overseas placements have well-documented ethical challenges.11-13 As well, such international experiences principally target students wanting to practise outside of Canada.14 Thus, other aspects of global health can be explored as fruitful learning opportunities, such as understanding Canada's contribution to global health, or advocating for global health or health equity more broadly.

Furthermore, there is no consensus as to how much international education is necessary to encourage global citizenship. Exposure remains variable across the country. It has consistently been shown that curricula changes at Canadian health professional schools have struggled to keep up with demand from students for inclusion of such material.9-12,15 With so much material already in health professional curricula, global health topics are not always prioritized.5 Educators cannot keep up with demands from students to learn about global challenges and how Canada contributes.1,16

Along with this trend towards increasing global health education, there has been an increased trend within educational pedagogy towards experiential and service learning. Experiential learning, or learning through doing, emphasizes experimentation and reflection.17 Such approaches have the potential to help students understand lessons more deeply. Experiential education allows for individual learning, with the focus on discovering knowledge first-hand through active experimentation, concrete experience, reflective observation and practice applying abstract conceptualization.17 By working through these learning steps, students can internalize what they have experienced and extract broader lessons.18 In experiential education, students can be proactive in their learning and are often motivated to work not just for better grades but also because of their interest in creating change.19 Evaluations of experiential education have found that lessons learned tend to stay with students well beyond the end of the educational experience.20

This case study describes and evaluates an educational experience that combined students' interest in both experiential education and global health training. Advocacy was seen to be an appropriate learning goal for this approach, given its importance in national competency frameworks such as the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada's CanMEDS roles21 and the Public Health Agency of Canada's Core Competencies for Public Health.22 Advocacy is especially important in global settings, where governance can be weaker and where needs are not fully addressed by markets. …

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