Working upstream: Skills for social change

Public health needs more practitioners who can bridge the gap between research and practice — people who can take research findings and use them to inform policymakers and influence the development and implementation of policy. Public health students need to understand the process of social change and, when needed be able to advocate for policy change. Unfortunately, degree-granting programs in public health generally do not provide systematic training in advocacy. In the absence of formal training in social change, public health graduates must develop these skills on a catch-as-catch-can basis. Working in this way means that some will be less effective than they otherwise could be advancing the health of the public.

In recognition of this curricular gap, present in many universities that educate students in public health, BMSG worked with professor Susan Sorenson and dean Lawrence Wallack to develop Working Upstream: Skills for Social Change [pdf], a curriculum and resource guide that could be adapted by public health programs to teach social advocacy. To create the curriculum, we enlisted the participation of faculty from across the nation, as well as that of leaders in nonprofit public health organizations and current students and recent graduates from several degree-granting public health programs and schools.

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