Population health assessment project: An innovative strategy for teaching principles of epidemiology

Diane L. Keen, Kennesaw State University
Johnathan D. Steppe, Kennesaw State University
Mary Katherine White, Kennesaw State University
Barbara Blake, Kennesaw State University


Public health nurses (PHNs) use principles of epidemiology in their work with communities; however, teaching these concepts at the baccalaureate level can be challenging. To reinforce the epidemiologic concepts taught in the classroom, two nursing faculty in our baccalaureate nursing program developed a population health project that allows students to explore concepts of epidemiology within the context of a population health concern. This article describes how the project provides students with a realistic opportunity to research the health issue. As a part of the project, students collect and analyze data about the health concern at the county, state, and national level. The project also requires students to identify local agencies who provide services for people who are impacted by the health issue and describe their role and function within the community. Furthermore, students discuss the roles and responsibilities of nurses in managing the population health concern under investigation. In doing so, students recognize how epidemiology informs population level nursing care. If nursing students understand epidemiological concepts, they will be better prepared to educate the communities they serve after graduation when a population health crisis, such as the recent COVID-19 pandemic, occurs.