School of Public Health uses IGR model to form dialogue program

Summer 2014

In collaboration with IGR, the University of Michigan School of Public Health (SPH) is actively engaged in a five-year initiative to provide every student, staff, and faculty member at SPH with a substantive dialogue experience, including opportunities for students to be trained as intergroup dialogue facilitators.

The school-wide program aims to achieve a sustainable shift in the personal and collective skill set of the School of Public Health’s students, faculty, and staff by integrating a social justice intergroup dialogue curriculum and pedagogy across the school.

SPH is currently piloting three sections of Public Health 510, a two-credit intergroup dialogue course that examines the intersection of race, socioeconomic status, and health disparities. The course explores the ways in which issues of health equity are often correlated with social/cultural aspects of communities and their differential access to power, privilege, and health resources. Through peer-facilitated class sessions, students integrate lived experience with readings and engaged pedagogies to better understand their potential personal and professional roles in reducing health inequity.

For a group project, students in the class partner with community public health organizations to reflect the ways in which social identity impact both health disparities and students’ interactions with communities. Interested students enrolled in 510 will be able to apply to train as intergroup dialogue facilitators by enrolling in Public Health 620, which will be piloted in Winter 2013.

Dialogue workshops are also underway for faculty and staff across the school. These workshops will provide faculty and staff an opportunity to experience intergroup dialogue pedagogy first-hand, and to reflect on how these new skills can be integrated inside and outside the classroom.

Plans are also underway to create a regularly occurring MESS hall (Mental Emotional Social Support) to create spaces for students, faculty, and staff to continue these conversations outside of the structured environments of classes and workshops.

Together, SPH hopes these initiatives will produce public health professionals that utilize these skills to expand their capacity to bridge differences, address disparities, and promote health in an increasingly complex world.

Susan King, D.Min., holds a dual appointment in both SPH and IGR. She adapted the curriculum for SPH faculty, staff and students, and is the instructor for PH 510. Said King:

As we move toward strengthening Public Health programs to meet the needs of the 21st century, it is very exciting to be able to marry social justice pedagogy to the exploration of health disparities here at SPH. Our hope is to offer current and future Public Health practitioners the opportunity to deeply explore the relationships between race, class and health disparities, in order to enhance their ability to more accurately assess the holistic health needs of an increasingly diverse population.

The pilot dialogue on Race, SES, and Health Equity provides a much needed space for students across disciplines to share their experiences, training and how this impacts their future as public health practitioners”

Munmun Khan, a current facilitator for the course says:

This reflective space enables us to not only reflect on our own socializations, but also how power and privilege play a role when we are interacting with communities and institutions.

The School of Public Health is the first professional school at U of M to offer a comprehensive dialogue experience to its students, faculty, and staff, and believes that this initiative will inform new research, teaching, service, and practice within the field of public health education as a whole.

Initial funding for the implementation of this initiative was provided by the Transforming Learning for a Third Century Grant awarded by the University of Michigan Third Century Initiative. The iniative aims to fund the development of innovative, multi-disciplinary teaching and scholarship approaches across the University of Michigan for its third century.