Academic and public health department linkage through a course-based undergraduate epidemiology research study

Publication Date


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Publication Title

American Public Health Association 2020 Annual Meeting and Expo

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Course-based undergraduate research experiences are aimed at making research more inclusive, improving retention, and inspiring historically underrepresented students to pursue post-graduate research. For students in public health, connecting with a local health department to understand research gaps and obtain feedback at an early stage of a research study may enhance the relevance of the research, increase student buy-in, support local health department and community needs, and facilitate dissemination. We developed and implemented a course-based undergraduate research study within the context of an introductory epidemiology course in consultation with staff in the Tobacco Free Communities (TFC) Program of the local County Public Health Department. The course professor and TFC staff member met prior to the start of the course to discuss the work of TFC, research gaps, and how undergraduate students might be able to contribute to the knowledge-base. The research study was scaffolded over the course of the semester, with students conducting background research, designing a cross-sectional survey, obtaining institutional review board approval, collecting data, and analyzing the results. While the professor guided the research and provided weekly feedback, the TFC staff member visited the class three times to answer questions and assist the students as they were conducting background research, designing the study, and analyzing the results. After the class was over, students had an opportunity to continue the partnership with TFC by presenting their research at a Public Health Department meeting. Students reported that they were excited to know that their research was relevant and useful to the Public Health Department and that this increased their engagement. The Public Health Department shared that they valued the opportunity to learn about the student-led research and the study results were helpful for planning and advocacy. The course professor appreciated TFC’s support in subject matter knowledge and felt inspired to ensure high quality research because of the opportunity for data to be meaningfully used by the Public Health Department. After the semester ended, a quarter of the students voluntarily continued to work with the faculty member and TFC staff member to disseminate the study results. We recommend this type of partnership.


College Students, Teaching


Public Health and Recreation