Project Title

The study abroad model in Public Health: Are we doing more harm than good?

Presenters

Academic department under which the project should be listed

WCHHS - Health Promotion and Physical Education

Faculty Sponsor Name

Mari-Amanda Dyal

The project required a review of current study abroad program language, so no human subjects approval is needed at this time.

Abstract (300 words maximum)

Introduction

Public health initiatives have made great strides in the health outcomes of vulnerable populations in developing countries. Of these initiatives, study abroad programs afford students the opportunity to get an inside look at how public health is viewed in juxtaposition to the world that they see every day.

Even though public health related study abroad programs focus on enrichment activities, there is a critical problem with the design of those programs. This problem is related to student ignorance entering a culture with limited preparation, time, and experience. Even though these programs are well intentioned, they disrupt lives and introduce hope and compassion, which is stripped once the program concludes.

Most program policies are solely focused on the students’ safety and experience with little regard for the populations that are served.

Methods

Public health related study abroad programs were identified across several University System of Georgia institutions (n=6) in which eight individual study abroad program policies were examined for language devoted to the populations receiving program activities.

Results

The analysis found that the majority of program activities took place in developing countries in which vulnerable populations were identified and recruited as program partners. Very few program policies considered the population impact of engagement outside of student cultural sensitivity.

Discussion

A policy focus on all parties involved will build awareness and initiate action that is beyond that of good intentions. Further, students and populations will benefit from a rich connection that is developed before, during, and after the study abroad experience.

Project Type

Oral Presentation (15-min time slots)

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The study abroad model in Public Health: Are we doing more harm than good?

Introduction

Public health initiatives have made great strides in the health outcomes of vulnerable populations in developing countries. Of these initiatives, study abroad programs afford students the opportunity to get an inside look at how public health is viewed in juxtaposition to the world that they see every day.

Even though public health related study abroad programs focus on enrichment activities, there is a critical problem with the design of those programs. This problem is related to student ignorance entering a culture with limited preparation, time, and experience. Even though these programs are well intentioned, they disrupt lives and introduce hope and compassion, which is stripped once the program concludes.

Most program policies are solely focused on the students’ safety and experience with little regard for the populations that are served.

Methods

Public health related study abroad programs were identified across several University System of Georgia institutions (n=6) in which eight individual study abroad program policies were examined for language devoted to the populations receiving program activities.

Results

The analysis found that the majority of program activities took place in developing countries in which vulnerable populations were identified and recruited as program partners. Very few program policies considered the population impact of engagement outside of student cultural sensitivity.

Discussion

A policy focus on all parties involved will build awareness and initiate action that is beyond that of good intentions. Further, students and populations will benefit from a rich connection that is developed before, during, and after the study abroad experience.