Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior (HPEB) associate professors Dr. Alyssa Robillard and Dr. Lucy Annang Ingram at the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health received the first Best Paper of the Year Award from the Pedagogy in Health Promotion Journal at the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE) Awards Ceremony in Charlotte, NC on March 31. Their winning paper, entitled “Talking About Race: An Important First Step in Undergraduate Pedagogy Addressing African American Health Disparities,” was published in the inaugural issue of the new SOPHE journal, Pedagogy in Health Promotion: The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.
[Photo: Dr. Alyssa Robillard]
“This paper served as a reflection piece with recommendations for pedagogy,” explains Dr. Robillard, who is lead author. “We used it as an avenue to provide a set of ‘tools’ to assist instructors in discussing race in the context of health disparities.”
One of these tools is how to use ‘The Gardener’s Tale,’ an allegory developed by American Public Health Association President Camara Jones, who gave the keynote presentation at the Arnold School’s 9th Annual James E. Clyburn Health Disparities Lecture in April. The authors also provided strategies for discussing race in the classroom as well as suggesting resources, such as films and books to aid understanding and discussion.
“By no means do we think we have all of the answers—or even do a great job ourselves all the time—with this difficult topic, but we offer some ideas based on our own individual and collective experiences,” says Dr. Robillard of the perspectives that she, Dr. Ingram, and their co-author, Kyrel Buchanan (all graduates of the Health Education/Health Promotion doctoral program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health) put forth. “We’ve been informed that our paper was among the top downloaded articles from the journal, which is very encouraging and will hopefully help all of us with an interest in addressing disparities have greater context as we attempt to address African American health disparities.”
Long before the authors put their thoughts onto paper, they struggled with the best way to teach students about health disparities within the classroom. “It is difficult to have a discussion about health disparities and social determinants for communities of color without having a deep and worthwhile discussion about race,” Dr. Robillard says. “My colleagues and I together agree that incorporating activities and having these discussions is really necessary to help us move toward our collective goal of health equity.” The publication of this paper takes these efforts a step further by disseminating their findings on what works well and what does not.
The effort is also driven by the graduate students these faculty members have influenced. For example, HPEB doctoral student Marian Botchway, who was also recognized by SOPHE with one of their 21st Century Scholarships, served as a teaching assistant for Dr. Robillard. The two have discussed their appreciation for health promotion and health education and hope to get more Arnold School faculty and students involved in SOPHE to further these critical aspects of advancing public health.