Pathways to Health Equity (formerly called Health Professionals as Agents of Change)

Instructor Name: 
Alissa Leavitt
Course Description: 

Pathways to Health Equity (Formerly called Health Professionals as Agents of Change)


Influences such as income, living conditions, education, infrastructure, healthcare, social capital, public policy, stress, gender, and race are widely recognized to effect health outcomes. However, the connection between research and practice is sometimes not as well developed or fully articulated.

Students will have the opportunity to work with practitioners to engage the community, including stakeholders, as equal partners in the initiation of community‐based interventions. Additionally, the instructor recognizes that health is created by a multitude of factors beyond healthcare and, in many cases, beyond the scope of traditional public health activities. Therefore, students outside of traditional health majors are also invited to participate in the course.  

Students will reflect on communication, critical thinking, appreciation and diversity, and social responsibility and how they apply to community relationships and everyday life. Community-based learning opportunities will be structured to promote student learning and development. Desired learning outcomes
include acquiring a sense of civic and social responsibility, gaining exposure to cultural and socioeconomic differences, applying classroom learning and learning new skills.

The expectation is that students will complete a minimum of 30 community-based hours throughout the term. The first several weeks of the course will be spent discussing community-based learning as it relates to social justice and social change. 

This capstone will benefit both the community partners and the capstone students. Public health is inherently a community-oriented endeavor. The purpose of public health is to improve health by identifying and addressing conditions in the community that affect individuals’ health. This capstone will
prepare students for future roles as public health practitioners, giving students an opportunity to complete applied public health work on a range of topics in a variety of settings and sectors with diverse populations.

Through class discussions, practices, reading, and self-observations, students will explore the meaning their work has for both themselves and for the community. Students will complete a written report and presentation regarding an issue within the field of health or healthcare. Students may work with a mentor in public health education or health policy, public affairs, social service, healthcare environment, or other settings in which the student is qualified.

Possible community partner activities include supporting the service site and
working collaboratively to:

  • Plan, implement and/or evaluate programs
  • Collect and analyze data
  • Conduct community outreach, develop marketing materials and plan events
  • Conduct a health impact assessment
  • Conduct health-related research (i.e.: working on the computer, data analysis, survey administration, interviewing, or communicating with people
  • Contribute to written reports, presentations, and publications to disseminate findings from research projects to scientific and technical audiences
  • Prepare materials for grant applications
  • Create organizational and informational tools to help with creation of new local policy and enforcement and monitoring of current policy
  • Serve as a health education resource person
  • and more!


Learning Outcomes:

  • Describe the cultural, social, behavioral, institutional, and environmental factors and issues that influence the health of the community. (inquiry and critical thinking, diversity, equity and social justice, ethics, agency and community) 
  • Describe and apply characteristics of an effective teamwork experience. (inquiry and critical thinking, communication, diversity, equity and social justice, ethics, agency and community) 
  • Demonstrate awareness of and sensitivity to diverse perspectives based on social and cultural characteristics when designing, implementing, evaluating, and disseminating public health programs and/or services. (inquiry and critical thinking, communication, variety of human experience, ethics, agency and community) 
  • Articulate how the social and physical environments shape individual[TH2] and community health through an ecological model. (inquiry and critical thinking, communication, diversity, equity and social justice, ethics, agency and community) 
  • Identify personal areas of passion and interest in promoting social justice and health equity and serving as a current and future change agent in health care. (inquiry and critical thinking, communication, diversity, equity and social justice, ethics, agency and community) 
  • Advocate for personal, family, community and public health focused on stress recovery supports. (inquiry and critical thinking, communication, ethics, agency and community) 

​This course may feel different from other courses you have taken in the past. The course will rely less on lecture-style content and more on experiential and student-led learning. Students will be asked to contribute their expertise and experience to class activities, assignments and fieldwork. Full participation is critical to a successful learning experience in this course. In the capstone setting, students, the instructor and community partners are viewed as co-teachers and co-learners. We will work together to achieve goals that both benefit educational experience and meet a real need in the community. 

Project Description: 

Students will take the initiative before the Capstone begins to arrange a project with their service site. Students will partner with local organizations to produce a set of products that serve one overarching goal and enhance the partner organization’s mission. This capstone is flexibly designed, giving students the opportunity to help shape and define their level of work. 

  • Students will work with their own community partner to negotiate service plans. 

  • Student will produce products or complete service that meet the community’s needs.

  • Students will have the opportunity to reflect on and present information about their on-going work with their individual partnerships in the community. 

  • Students will complete a final written report regarding an issue within the field of health or healthcare. The written report will be shared in class, on the course webpage and with the service site.  

  • Students will complete a final presentation reflecting on connections between course outcomes and community-based learning. Representatives from the service sites would be invited to attend the presentation.


Each student is expected to share on the first day of class a confirmation letter from their community sponsor. This letter should include the student's name, the focus and time frame of the project, a description of the types of people with whom the student will interact, and the sponsor's signature. Permission of instructor required. Contact instructor by e-mail for full details regarding course requirements.