Community Colleges Use League Grants to Promote Public Health Career Awareness
As the demand for public health professionals continues to increase, the League for Innovation in the Community College (League) is collaborating with the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) to create a community college culture of health. Part of this effort involves increasing community college student awareness of career options in public health fields. In January 2019, the League awarded 23 small grants to help support this career awareness activities during National Public Health Week 2019 and World Health Day 2019. These grant-funded projects focused on increasing student awareness of courses and programs as well as transfer and career opportunities within public health and related disciplines.
The League is continuing the National Public Health Week/World Health Day grant program for 2020 and will award up to 60 small grants to community colleges. The focus of the 2020 grant program is on increasing awareness of career options in public health among community college students. For more information and the grant application (due October 15, 2019), see www.league.org/node/18765.
A Sampling of 2019 Grant Recipient Activities
Grant recipients hosted a variety educational and awareness events in spring 2019; some of these activities are briefly described here.
Several colleges hosted tabling events featuring community partners, college program information, and college and community public health resources. Colleges with programs in public health used grant funds to increase awareness of these programs and further education and career opportunities in public health. For example, Mid Michigan College used grant funds to share information about its new associate’s degree in public health. A tabling booth set up at both of the college’s campuses featured a prize wheel to attract students; those who spun the wheel and answered (or attempted to answer) the question correctly were eligible to participate in a drawing for a gift card to the college bookstore. Informative handouts on the public health associate’s degree program were distributed at the tables.
Dona Ana Community College created marketing materials for distribution at its tabling events during National Public Health Week 2019. Materials included packets of vegetable seeds with program information and a public health message on the packaging. The tables were staffed by students from seven different public health/health occupations programs. Students also staffed tables at Cuesta College, which used the grant to promote its new Public Health Science degree. The degree focuses on disease and injury prevention and introduces students to public health career options. Public Health Science students organized activities to inform other students about the program and career opportunities in public health, showcasing a different area of public health each day.
Some grant recipients, including Central Carolina Technical College, Community College of Allegheny County, Hartnell College, Hinds Community College-Utica Campus, Kirkwood Community College, and Queensborough Community College, welcomed internal as well as community guest speakers and presentations. Hartnell College, for example, started National Public Health Week 2019 by hosting Monterey County Health Department in a two-hour presentation titled, What Is Public Health? Three health department representatives provided an overview of public health, spoke about current community projects, and offered opportunities for students to get involved. Grant funds also supported promotion of various activities during the week, including distribution of “Hartnell College National Public Health Week” wrist bands as well as water and snacks at the week’s public health tabling events.
At several colleges, activities focused on public health education, providing opportunities for students to research topics, design and develop lessons and materials, and present to various groups. Isothermal Community College’s Nursing Club developed a smoking prevention and cessation education program, using grant funds to support creation of educational materials and the purchase of a lung demonstration kit. The Nursing Club has used these resources in presentations during special events, such as a science expo for 6th graders and the college’s sports day.
At Chandler-Gilbert Community College, the Pre-health Student Club and students enrolled in pre-health career courses held an educational campaign to increase public awareness of the chemicals in personal care products and provide information on how to make wise choices in product selection. The students researched, designed, and created various education and awareness materials, including posters, brochures, and infographics for social media use. They also introduced participants to apps that can help users identify toxins in personal care products.
At the Community College of Allegheny County, students and staff participated in the Green Health Initiatives Symposium organized by the college’s chapter of SNAP, the Student Nurses Association of Pennsylvania. Students created poster presentations on various environmental health topics, including plastics waste and toxic waste in healthcare; the health effects of lead in water, pesticides, chemicals in health and beauty products, and air pollution; and trash tag bags community collection.
Kirkwood Community College’s Occupational Therapy Assistant and Physical Therapist Assistant programs developed educational materials and worked with local therapists and other community partners to provide information on how to live longer, healthier, more productive lives.
Reports from colleges indicate that activities were successful and well received by students and others who participated. Students who helped plan and implement the activities expressed appreciation for the opportunity to share their knowledge with other students and community members. The grant program allowed students to gain experience in some or all aspects of the grant process, including designing a project, preparing a budget and proposal, planning and implementing the project and budget, evaluating the project’s success, and reporting progress to the funder. Evaluation techniques students used for their grant-funded activities included paper and online surveys with question and comment sections, tallies of student interactions, registration forms to track participation, and informal comments during events.
The success of activities has encouraged some colleges to plan for expanded National Public Health Week/World Health Day events in the future. A few quotes from college reports to the League are examples of successes and future plans:
- “The feedback received from students was positive; the majority of them did not know what public health is, or were surprised at how the careers they were working towards had a place in the public health space. Utilizing these results from our evaluation, we will reconvene our planning team in the next year to improve this event for the coming years.”
- “Evaluation results have given us great encouragement to direct our efforts to make this a district-wide event.”
- “Efforts will be directed in making this an integrative STEM event at our campus.”
- “Students involved in the poster presentations further stated that this symposium provided them with the opportunity to provide a community service. Many students were able to discuss [public health issues] with those viewing their posters . . . Student poster presentations will be used again in the fall when students plan to have another symposium.”
- “Participants expressed that their overall time was spent well, the event was needed in the community, well organized event, and had very engaging students; it was a great success.”
The following community colleges received grants from the League to support career awareness activities during National Public Health Week/World Health Day 2019:
- Arkansas State University Mountain Home (Arkansas)
- Atlanta Technical College (Georgia)
- Bristol Community College (Massachusetts)
- Camosun College (British Columbia)
- Central Carolina Technical College (South Carolina)
- Chandler-Gilbert Community College (Arizona)
- Cleveland State Community College (Tennessee)
- Community College of Allegheny County (Pennsylvania)
- Cuesta College (California)
- Cuyahoga Community College-Metro Campus (Ohio)
- Dona Ana Community College (New Mexico)
- Gaston College (North Carolina)
- Hartnell College (California)
- Hinds Community College-Utica Campus (Mississippi)
- Isothermal Community College (North Carolina)
- Kirkwood Community College (Iowa)
- LaGuardia Community College (New York)
- Mid Michigan College (Michigan)
- Montgomery College (Maryland)
- Panola College (Texas)
- Queensborough Community College (New York)
- Thomas Nelson Community College (Virginia)
- Tri-County Technical College (South Carolina)