Students look at health history through social determinants lens

June 15, 2015

SPHERU’s Saskatchewan Historical Health Timeline is the beneficiary of some additions courtesy of Dr. James Daschuk’s students.

For his Health in Canada class at the University of Regina, he had his students research some aspect of the history of health of interest to them and compose a paper, put together a presentation and contribute to the timeline itself.

“They did a study of the history they’re interested in,” Daschuk says.

For example, one dental student looked into the history of population health dentistry. Another looked into how post-traumatic stress disorder was dealt with historically – for example, as “shell shock” around the time of the First World War.

Presentation slide from one of James Daschuk's students.
Presentation slide from one of James Daschuk's students.

Other topics include a history of pharmacy, the health implications of Chinese immigration and a history of polio and tuberculosis. One student even looked at old advertisements from the days in which Lysol was soft-sold as means of post-coital cleansing.

“There’s a lot of information,” he said. “I wanted the core of their paper visually represented.”

The students wrote papers and gave a five-minute presentation, as well as provided material for the timeline.

The project was only part of the itinerary for the 21 students in the 300-level class. Along with the history projects, they also investigated sexual assault policy on campuses, even sending their papers to the assistant vice-president to develop sexual assault policy for University of Regina. As well, they looked into best practices in food security on campus, information which will be presented to the University of Regina Students’ Union.

“They can actually influence policy,” Daschuk adds.

Also as part of the class, the students picked a health news story each week as a topic for discussion.

“We tied whatever story we had into the social determinants of health or policy,” he said.

The students represent a range of areas within health, and the classwork is designed to give them a broader perspective on their area of study. For example, a couple of biochemistry students wanted to learn more about the social determinants of health in order to prepare for medical school, and they found a number of their questions for the medical school interview had a social determinants of health lens and were ones the students had already discussed in Daschuk’s class.

As Daschuk says, the emphasis on the social determinants of health is designed to examine the implications of decisions the students will make once they begin their careers and, ultimately, this background will create more rounded professionals.

“It’s more progressive. It’s going to create better doctors and health professionals,” he says.


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