Advancing Public Health Education Through Place-Based Learning: “On the Road in the Deep South”

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Fifolt, M., & McCormick, L. C. (2020). Advancing Public Health Education Through Place-Based Learning: “On the Road in the Deep South.” Pedagogy in Health Promotion, 6(2), 102–112.


Documented health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities exist in the United States, and health injustices frequently have deep historical ties, especially in the South. Therefore, it is critically important for students to understand root causes of both historical and contemporary public health issues and their effects on population health. In spring 2018, 15 undergraduate and graduate students from the University of Alabama at Birmingham participated in a six-credit-hour travel course by touring throughout the Deep South to learn more about the ways in which history and place interact with programs, policies, and practices to influence population health. Students saw firsthand how the social determinants of health frequently affected access to health care and discovered the value of a multidisciplinary approach to public health and health programs in addressing health equity. The purpose of this article is to describe student experiences with the travel course through an exploration of students’ reflective journal entries, blog posts, and student presentations. Additionally, the authors report results of a self-assessment designed to measure student interest and level of comfort in working with, or on behalf of, medically underserved populations. The article concludes with implications for public health and best practices for offering place-based courses across academic majors.