Actual healthcare challenges meet actual options – The Morning Solar

There is one surefire way to learn how to solve problems and evaluate the solutions: really do it.

Just ask the group of Central Michigan University students participating in a groundbreaking year-long program called Emerging Leaders in Health Disparities.

The project is powered by “solution pools,” which are teams of students, faculty and community partners who come together to learn about local and global health inequalities, develop solutions to address them through creative thinking and technology, and then evaluate how well they are Solutions work.

“This is a think tank focused on solving real-life mental health problems in Michigan,” said Larissa Niec Davila, faculty member in psychology. “The whole thing is new.”

Niec Davila and Sarah Domoff, Faculty Member of Psychology, created the two-part specialty course PSY 501, which is supported by a grant from the President of CMU and the Fund for Program Innovation and Excellence of Provost.

Niec Davila said it was the first program of its kind in the country – and a hit with the 10 undergraduate and two graduate students who began piloting in the spring semester.

“We had a 100 percent stake,” she said. “Every single student has attended every single class.”

Bundle resources
The participants in the solution pool come from various disciplines and courses of study: psychology, health professions, pre-medicine, public health, social work, movement science and more. The first community partners are Community Mental Health for Central Michigan and a coalition led by the Delta Schoolcraft Intermediate School District in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

During this first year, the teams will address three public health challenges:

  • Substance abuse, especially by girls, in the UP The team’s solutions focus on building communication between school and parents and promoting positive social opportunities for children.
  • Low child physical activity and a 64% child obesity rate in UP solutions include tools to track and graph the amount of physical activity and offer community rewards.
  • Underutilization of mental health support services in central Michigan counties Clare and Gladwin. The team is working on updating CMHCM’s website and social media presence.

The students spent the spring semester dealing with the topics and developing solutions using the creative problem solving model. One of their ideas for overcoming the two UP challenges is an innovative “Photovoice” project. This fall, K-12 students and teachers will express their ideas about an active and healthy lifestyle through photographs and voice recordings that will be collected online and in a visual exhibit.

The goal is to enable policy makers and health-related organizations to see what the community thinks about healthy lifestyles, and therefore to provide funding and resources to promote active and healthy living in these communities.

In April, students shared all of their solutions along with civil service video messaging to community partners at a presentation that was attended by CMU deans Provost Mary C. Schutten and President Bob Davies.

This summer, six of the students are putting the plans into practice with scholarships. In the fall semester, the teams start analyzing the results.

Niec Davila and Domoff designed the program for 20-40 students per year. You invite students to register for the next cohort, which will take on new challenges from autumn 2022.

“More than prepared”
Three students in the Emerging Leaders in Health Disparities program share their thoughts:

Bianca Buza

  • Hometown: Madison Heights, Michigan.
  • As of May 2021 Graduated from Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Early Childhood Development and Learning. She will return in the fall of 2021 to complete the Emerging Leaders project.
  • Objectives: A career as a licensed clinical child psychologist working with children struggling with behavioral problems related to family trauma, abuse, and family conflict.
    In her words, “Through this program and the work we have done in addressing community issues, I’ve learned to research carefully, apply it to real-world problems, and share that information so that others can build on it. I feel more than willing to describe my knowledge as a researcher to employers and interviewers of graduate programs. “

Danielle King

  • Hometown: Flint Township, Michigan.
  • Status: Senior Degree in Health Administration.
  • Objectives: To work in the field of public health and public policy, particularly on measures to help people with marginalized identities receive equitable health care.
    In her words: “Through this program I learned to work in an interdisciplinary team. I think it is important to work with people from different backgrounds in order to use the strengths of each individual for a common goal. This program also showed me how much research and planning is put into implementing solutions. I’ve learned the importance of building relationships with communities to avoid harm, which will help me when I have influence in politics. “

Emma Skogseth

  • Hometown: Greenville, Michigan.
  • Status: Senior double degree in psychology and child development.
  • Objectives: Participation in an interdisciplinary doctoral program with educational, developmental and psychological perspectives. Collaborate with professionals from other disciplines on community-based projects, develop and advocate public policies addressing inequalities in education, and become a professor of psychology.
    In her words: “I was able to get together with other students from different disciplines in a real project, examine health disparities from the perspective of the community and prepare myself for the rigors of the graduate school.”

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