UC Irvine Global Health Research Education and Translation (GHREAT) Initiative faculty publishes a manuscript entitled “Public health education using pop culture and media”. The article was recently released in Frontiers in Public Health-Public Health Education and Promotion in a special issue: http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fpubh.2014.00231/full
Public health emphasizes disease prevention, health promotion, and treatment at the population level. Still, general knowledge about public health is lacking, despite the international growth of public health programs. If public health does its job, few know we exist. Education may be the key. We are moving more into utilizing technology for teaching and communication. In fact, technology these days is difficult to avoid, and many students prefer to use a laptop or tablet rather than a pen and paper in class. In a world where new technology emerges on a daily basis, more and more Universities are offering online and hybrid courses that utilize these advances.
Some experts in university education argue that the best way a student can learn is by doing. Undergraduate students in upper-division public health courses at UC Irvine were offered an opportunity to develop videos defining public health and global health using pop culture as a tool. They could choose any theme, health topic, song they wanted as long as the video educated the audience on public health or global health. While use of pop culture by students to educate on topics is relatively unused in public health, it has been utilized broadly. The overall goal of our video project was to help communicate public health to individuals, both in the UC Irvine community and beyond.
Topics varied greatly, from HIV and disaster preparedness to vaccination and mental health awareness. Across three years of the video project, students used popular themes including dating diseases and pop culture from Walking Dead, the Rocky soundtrack, Michael Jackson’s ABCs, Superheroes, and Power Rangers. Very high quality videography was done using standard telephones with recording features.
When given the opportunity, students can utilize media (songs, movies, plays) and employ innovative methods including use of pop culture to successfully educate their peers about issues of public health significance. These peer driven methods are more likely to reach and educate their peers and the general community outside of UC Irvine, and to increase knowledge about public and global health. We must continue to use all the tools in our toolkit to educate on public health. Online media, student led peer education, and pop culture are a few of these tools. It is time public health gained the national and international notoriety it deserves. We now have an additional tool to achieve this goal.
The Manuscript author is Dr. Brandon Brown from the GHREAT Initiative at the UC Irvine Program in Public Health.