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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 34  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 101-104

From millstones to milestones: Scaffolding a house of public health on political science foundations

1 Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA
2 University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry; University of British, Columbia
3 University of British, Columbia

Correspondence Address:
Farah M Shroff
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/efh.EfH_256_18

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Background: We analyze the University of British Columbia's Department of Political Science's first course on health, “Global Politics and Health,” to determine whether one course could inform political science students to tackle health issues. The major concept was global public health is politics writ large, as determinants of health are rooted in economic and social power. Course objectives encouraged student agency in ameliorating population health status. Methods: We use three surveys, with qualitative and quantitative components, to assess interest and knowledge of public health issues, and determine whether student agency increased as the course progressed. Results: We confirmed that political science develops an excellent foundation for the analysis of issues related to global public health status. One course can stimulate curiosity in health issues. Unexpectedly, we discovered that students' greatest learning outcome integrated personal, interpersonal, and scholarly analyses of health issues. This provided an avenue for students outside of the health sciences to frame mental health, sexuality, and other stigmatized subjects within scholarly discourse. After the course, virtually all students had developed a sense of agency, hope, and tools to understand the roots of mental and physical health. Following case studies on various countries, students quickly grasped the significant impact of politics and economics on people's health. Discussion: We recommend that political science departments offer courses that focus on health for all alongside existing courses on healthcare systems' politics. Furthermore, departments of public health may benefit from including political science courses as core elements of their curriculum to assist graduates in navigating the highly politicized infrastructure of public health. Both disciplines stand to gain from this interdisciplinary opportunity-- in the service of better health for all.

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