HPAA project educates and inspires creativity

December 08, 2008
Within the Health Policy Management (HPM) department during the Fall 2007 semester, the course “Introduction to Health Policy and Politics” was bustling with renewed excitement. Throughout the course, Professor Felicia Mebane shed light on government institutions, political actors, and the process that defines health policy in the United States. Students in the course evaluated a variety of health issues and policy alternatives as well as developed communication skills through writing memos, all of which culminated in the final group project. The purpose of the assignment was to engage Americans in politics and health policy in innovative ways. The result demonstrated that Health Policy Management students at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health are passionate about health policy, invested in the future of healthcare, and desire to make a positive difference. Creativity was required for the project, which followed a few guidelines. Extra credit was awarded to the top three groups that had the most successful impact, such as news coverage, participation, or internet hits. 

The winning groups all demonstrated originality in development and execution of their ideas. The winning group included Miriam Mutuku, Erica Nelson and Michelle Sonia. Their project goal was to increase voter participation by encouraging underrepresented older American citizens to vote by creating a program, “Vote for Your Health,” In addition, the group also visited local assisted living facilities and provided information on various candidates as well as voter registration cards and applications for absentee ballots. The group project received news coverage on Carolina 14.

Jamie DeGraw as Hillary Clinton in a mock debate over healthcare policy on YouTube

Jamie DeGraw as Hillary Clinton in a mock debate over healthcare policy on YouTube

The next two top groups tied in demonstrating an impact. One team included David Jones, Gabe Morosoff, and Austin Johnson. They coordinated a public forum on health policy reform in order to initiate a discussion among UNC students and faculty, healthcare professionals and elected officials. The final group included Jamie DeGraw, Lauren Dennis, and Tessa Nguyen. Their goal was to inform and engage the public about healthcare issues in the election by creating a satirical video focusing on the major 2008 Democratic Presidential candidates and their position or past performance regarding various healthcare issues. The video was posted on YouTube and received over a thousand hits the first few weeks it was uploaded. 

While the purpose of the project was to stimulate a dialogue about health policy and politics, many students agree that the project was both educational and enjoyable. HPM student Tessa Nguyen stated that, “It [the project] was surprisingly fun, although when we started out it was a real challenge thinking of an original and creative idea. I thought it was a great challenge to give to the class, although initially a little bit daunting.” The project gave students an exciting opportunity to collaborate with classmates and encouraged them to be actively involved in learning about the political aspect of healthcare. 

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