Teaching Public Health Informatics: The Five-Year Experience
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PURPOSE: This paper describes a three-credit course in public health informatics developed and taught by staff in an academic health sciences library. SETTING/PARTICIPANTS/RESOURCES: The environment is a medium-sized academic health sciences library serving a large public university. This public health informatics course was developed when the school of public health was established in 1998. Thirty-two students earning the Master of Public Health degree have completed the course since it was first offered in the fall of 1999. From 2000-2003, the authors team-taught the course. BRIEF DESCRIPTION: The course has been modified over the past five years, based on the semester during which it was taught and the number of students enrolled. However, all iterations of the course featured: an overview of public health informatics as a discipline; extensive hands-on practice with relevant databases; exercises in critically appraising the quality of information on the Internet; tutorials about copyright, fair use, and the ethics of citing and using published research; practice and critique of presentation skills; and practice responding to media inquiries about public health. Where appropriate, guest lecturers were invited to share their expertise on topics such as effective communication and working with the World Health Organization. In 2002, the course formally introduced evidence-based public health practice and an assignment to critically appraise published research about a public health intervention. From 2001-2003, the course was increasingly delivered via WebCT. The spring 2003 course will be almost exclusively Web-based. RESULTS/OUTCOME: Qualitative and quantitative evaluations of the course have been favorable. Teaching a for-credit course in the school underscores the important role of the library in the public health curriculum. EVALUATION METHOD: Students evaluated course activities at the middle and end of the course. Midcourse evaluations were prepared and reviewed by the instructors. Final evaluations are standard university course evaluation forms, consisting of Likert and open-ended questions. Results of the final evaluations are reported to the school and the instructors.