Medical Students and Educators Unite to Promote Healthy Classrooms
It turns out that changing the name of the school is the easy part. The real challenges lie in integrating public health into the curriculum and research — and, beyond that, in making an actual impact on public health in the community. The idea of expanding the school's mission to include public health was the inspiration for UW medical students to organize "Healthy Classrooms: A Public Health in Education Symposium."
The student-organized event brought together teachers, parents, principals, physicians and community members to discuss the effects of public health issues on children in the classroom. The symposium addressed topics including the treatment of attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, sexuality education, childhood obesity, enhancing nutrition in schools, providing health insurance for students, as well as others. Altogether, ten presenters from across UW and around the state discussed the integration of public health practices into the lives of the attendees, their students and their classrooms.
Ben Weston, a second-year medical student who is a leader of the student organization called Public Health and Medicine Interest Group (PHMIG), was the driving force behind the symposium. At the start of the school year, the interest group membership laid out several goals, including, "Bring public health to the public."
"From all the classroom time studying population health, it was clear to us that we needed to focus our efforts "upstream" on preventive measures, promoting healthy lifestyle behaviors at an early age. We began to think about our own primary school experiences and the lack of attention public health issues had received," says Weston.
PHMIG members envisioned a ripple effect. Reaching out to one teacher meant reaching out to 30 students.
Recognize the need more than a one-time event, students are now exploring the possibility of initiating a local program that promotes simple, fun and effective ways to live a healthy life.