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For our second unit, we move beyond a purely biomedical approach toward health and consider the social determinants of health for a timely exploration of the ways in which health and medicine are unjustly distributed, accessible, etc. for particular populations. Students take on the role of a public health specialist interested in understanding, exposing, and addressing a current or recent problem, disparity, inequity, or other challenge regarding health justice in North Carolina. They conduct secondary research and (if applicable) primary research on their topic in the context of North Carolina. (Students who are taking this class from a distance can choose another state/region based on their current location.) Students eventually present their research in the form of an academic conference presentation in health justice. We use UNC’s Paul A. Godley Health Equity Symposium as a model to guide them in choosing their topics, crafting their proposal, and conducting and presenting their research.

In this unit, students enter the scholarly discourse around their chosen topic of inquiry, generating a unique research question, conducting secondary (and possibly primary) research, and synthesizing that research into an academic conference presentation in which they share their unique findings. This experience exposes them to one of the most common methods for disseminating knowledge in both academic and professional discourse communities, both as presenters and as audience members, while also allowing them to learn and practice best techniques for oral communication and presentations.

Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many professional and academic conferences are currently taking place through a virtual format, and so we are taking a similar approach. Unfortunately, we do not have time for everyone to deliver their presentations in real-time over Zoom. Instead, students will deliver their presentations in the form of a pre-recorded video.

For more information, see the Unit 2 Assignment Prompt, which should be accompanied by the quick guide to interviews and observations.


And of course, be sure to explore the students’ completed health justice conference presentations. In the drop-down menu for “Categories,” choose “Social Health Sciences: Health Justice Conference Presentations” to access the videos of their presentations, accompanied by transcripts, or you can just click here.