Service-learning: an integral part of undergraduate public health

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Family Medicine and Community Health

Publication Date


Document Type



Cooperative Behavior; *Curriculum; *Health Education; Humans; *Learning; *Public Health; Social Justice; *Social Welfare; Students


Community Health | Other Medical Specialties | Preventive Medicine


In 2003, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) described public health as "an essential part of the training of citizens," a body of knowledge needed to achieve a public health literate citizenry. To achieve that end, the IOM recommended that "all undergraduates should have access to education in public health." Service-learning, a type of experiential learning, is an effective and appropriate vehicle for teaching public health and developing public health literacy. While relatively new to public health, service-learning has its historical roots in undergraduate education and has been shown to enhance students' understanding of course relevance, change student and faculty attitudes, encourage support for community initiatives, and increase student and faculty volunteerism. Grounded in collaborative relationships, service-learning grows from authentic partnerships between communities and educational institutions. Through emphasizing reciprocal learning and reflective practice, service-learning helps students develop skills needed to be effective in working with communities and ultimately achieve social change. With public health's enduring focus on social justice, introducing undergraduate students to public health through the vehicle of service-learning as part of introductory public health core courses or public health electives will help ensure that our young people are able to contribute to developing healthy communities, thus achieving the IOM's vision.

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Citation: Am J Prev Med. 2008 Sep;35(3):273-8. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

American journal of preventive medicine

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID