13 March 2019

Public Health Casebook by Western University teaches essential skills through storytelling

The Master of Public Health Program (MPH) at Western University is a 12 month full-time program that incorporates a 12-week practicum. Western’s MPH Program relies extensively on the case based/experiential method of learning. The Programme aims to deliver 60% of pedagogic material using the case-based approach – a unique feature not found in other MPH Programs worldwide. The case method of learning is not about the traditional lecture-style classroom setting, but is about the student being an active part of the learning experience, which means learning by doing.

Every year, the Western University (Canada) publishes the Western Public Health Casebook that features cases from the Schulich Interfaculty Program in Public Health. The 2018 casebook offers a collection of teaching cases authored by students, faculty members, community partners of the university, as well as summaries of the Integrative Workshops that were held in 2016/17. According to the casebook, public health is both a science and a passion for helping. The cases reaffirm that the ability to work within diverse and interconnected contexts is an essential skill for contemporary workers.  

For example, the first case, entitled Mobilizing Knowledge into Action: Best Practices in Responding to Urgent Refugee Health and Resettlement Service Needs, examines the success and challenges of cross-sector government agencies and other organizations in providing healthcare to Syrian refugees. The entities and organizations were successful in the areas of cross-sector collaborations, temporary accommodation sites, and humanitarianism and goodwill. However, they faced challenges of communication gaps, funding, fairness and equity, navigating the health system while meeting complex and specific needs, interpretation barriers, and access to pregnancy and reproductive care, etc. 

Another interesting case talks about climate change strategy for rural populations. The health impacts of climate change are the main focus of this case, which include: an elevated occurrence of extreme weather events; dangerously high temperatures; illnesses pertinent to heat; respiratory conditions and more. The Ontario Public Health Standards has requested community health entities to inform the public of these health hazards and work with them to prevent the negative impacts of climate change and environmental threats. The case highlights the importance of monitoring disease, emergency planning, and heat warnings, as well as the strong need to raise the level of understanding and communication of the impacts of climate change on rural populations.

One of the cases tells the story of Luca Parente, a Master student of Public Health (MPH) who works in an environmental advocacy group in Ghana called Treesus, to promote environmental protection and lobby governments and organizations to prioritize environmentally conscious projects. Luca describes the Abokobi Open Dump as a significant public health hazard, shown to result in respiratory and gastrointestinal infections. His organization holds a workshop with the government sector responsible for environmental health and sanitation, and the major solid waste management companies. Showcasing the strategies Canada and other countries use to manage and reduce solid waste, the workshops is a good opportunity to promote the economic and health benefits of implementing an effective waste management system. 

Another chapter from the Casebook talked about Susan Miller, a health promoter at the Great Lakes County Public Health Unit, who was tasked with planning and implementing a school-based mental health intervention for youth in her community. The project was a public health response to concerned parents and teachers who were witnessing an increase in mental health issues among youth. The case describes the planning of the program, explains the governance structure of the Mental Health project and highlights the importance that parenting involving have in the success of the interventions.

Read the full Western Public Health Casebook 2018 here.