Enhancing gerontology interest among MPH students: Is adding aging to international service learning effective?

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Sharon D. Morrison, Associate Professor (Creator)
S. Sudha, Associate Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/

Abstract: With the proportions and numbers of older adults increasing rapidly in the United States and worldwide, there is acute need for professionals with “gero-competency” and “gero-interest” in the spectrum of health and human service fields. We examine whether adding on gerontology content to an existing international health-focused service learning course would suffice to spark interest in gerontology and gero-focused careers among Master’s in Public Health students in Community Health Education. Currently, comparatively few graduate programs in public health education in the United States offer aging concentrations. We thus explore this alternative strategy. We used case study methodology to guide our assessment, which included content and thematic analyses of “artifacts of learning” and transcripts of in-depth interviews with five graduate students. Despite little prior exposure to gerontology and limited preparation with gerontology content, the students were able to competently analyze community aging issues. They recommended that aging-related courses with experiential opportunities be offered in health education curricula. Of the five students, three were not interested in a gero-focused career, one was open to the idea, and the other had found her niche in an aging-related position and enjoyed working in that environment. As the population ages, there is great need to spark students’ interest in aging-related careers. Adding on gerontology content to an existing health education course appeared less effective in sparking gero-interest, despite proven pedagogical approaches such as service learning. Encouraging students to take aging-focused courses with experiential learning components and offering more gerontology concentrations in Master’s in Public Health–level community health education programs may be more effective.

Additional Information

Pedagogy in Health Promotion 2(2):137-143 https://doi.org/10.1177/2373379915625073
Language: English
Date: 2016
gero-interest, gero-competency, gerontology pedagogy, MPH curricula

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