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DHPE Interns Address Social Determinants of Health

Thursday, August 29, 2013   (0 Comments)
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This week the nation celebrates the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's famous "I Have a Dream” speech, which focused on people of color and the fight against oppression. In this quote engraved at the MLK memorial in Washington, DC, King refers to social structures that influence lives. In Public Health, we refer to such factors as "social determinants of health.”

DHPE's internship program for students of minority-serving institutions provides an avenue for a focus on social determinants of health to achieve health equity. Projects of Summer 2013 interns included:

  • Improving diabetes and heart disease risk by increasing access to fresh vegetables and fruits through WIC.
  • Assessing the all-hazard risk of vulnerable populations in DeKalb County, Georgia. The student found that older, non-mobile populations were vulnerable and took steps to close the gap.
  • Developing a health communications strategy using social media to promote lifestyle modifications among older African Americans. The student developed methods for disseminating evidence-based guidance to the population via Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
  • Kicking off a smoke-free Historically Black Colleges and Universities program for five HBCUs in the Maryland area.
  • Assessing access to fruits and vegetables in an urban neighborhood. The student looked at this access in the context of colorectal cancer risk.
  • Examining exposure to secondhand smoke in El Paso public housing. The student found that 81% of the people who had a preference wanted to live in a smoke-free building and that 75% of participants said the smell of smoke bothers them.

These are just a few of the 16 projects interns completed this summer. Other topics addressed by interns included healthy heart habits, breast cancer, health communication, and worksite wellness. The DHPE internship program has been running for more than ten years. DHPE staff members Dr. Steven Owens and Ms. Karen Thompkins provide extensive guidance in preparing these future professionals in public health.


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