SBCC Student Field Experience Focuses on Community-level Development

As seen in the HC3 University assessment report, university faculty see significant levels of value in practicum experience for students to apply theoretical knowledge gained in the classroom.

The recent HC3 university initiative webinar featured three models of university engagement with practice for students. These models showed that for students in MPH programs, majoring in SBCC, gaining useful work experience in applying the theoretical models learned largely involves community-level work.

Presented in the webinar were the three models of student practicum experience–national government-sponsored community development in Ethiopia, international non-governmental and local organization-led SBCC initiatives in Tanzania, and local-led community organization work in Baltimore, MD, U.S.

[pullquote] Resources from the University Initiative Webinar–Models of University Engagement with Practice can be found here. [/pullquote]At Jimma University in Ethiopia, many MPH students gain practical work experience by supporting national development efforts at the community level. As described by Vice President of Academic Affairs, Dr. Taye Tolemariam, the practicum experience follows a “community-based” educational approach which serves to connect the community needs with the skills gained by students in the university. Jimma University students across disciplines support a number of projects, including community cleaning campaigns, malaria control trainings and the installation of sanitation infrastructure in local schools and health centers, among other projects.

Participants in the CCP-Tanzania Advancing Communication Experientially (ACE) internship program apply theoretical knowledge through a program that not only provides opportunities to ‘learn by doing’ in SBCC projects, but also provides guidance and professional development support from assigned mentors to ensure interns receive career development advice, as well as practical experience. The comprehensive program provides support for students, sponsoring organizations and mentors, and emphasizes continued learning throughout the six-month internship through monthly seminar sessions, online training modules for students and mentors, as well as professional development courses for students.

Through the Johns Hopkins Student Outreach Resource Center (SOURCE) program in Baltimore, MD, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health students are placed in community development projects where students have opportunities to apply theories learned in the classroom. Additionally, these students are encouraged to learn the particular needs of communities in order to emphasize partnership in their practicum experience and promote the sustainability of their efforts. Students placed with community groups through certain service learning courses are graded on their successful efforts in the process of providing support, rather than on the deliverables they develop with local organizations.

Considering the significant health needs at the individual and community levels and the increased impact of health interventions that target the community level, SBCC interventions are well-placed to take advantage of university student idealism, theoretical knowledge and skills to promote positive, sustainable change at the community level. Encouraging not only capacity strengthening through the placement of student labor in SBCC projects, but also research support and case study documentation of the successes and overcoming of challenges can promote knowledge sharing for community-level development across geographic and health topic areas. The HC3 University Initiative will support this type of work through its webinar series (the next webinar topic will be Getting Research Studies Published), support for University discussion groups on Springboard and an SBCC Internship Program in selected HC3 project countries.

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