Today’s Student, Tomorrow’s Change Maker

Jan. 15, 2020

Leena Abbas & Peggy Hsieh

The City Health Dashboard was built for a wide variety of audiences, including city leaders, community development organizations, nonprofits, and researchers. Since launching, we’ve increasingly heard from educators at all levels who are using the Dashboard as part of their curricula to provide hands-on learning experiences regarding health patterns and uses of data for their students. The Dashboard is a powerful tool that people of all ages and educational levels can find valuable – even middle school students.

Recently, the Dashboard - which is part of the Division of Epidemiology at NYU Grossman School of Medicine’s Department of Population Health -- had the opportunity to host approximately thirty 8th grade students from Hunter’s Point Community Middle School in NYC. These students had been applying principles of epidemiology across all of their curricula – science, English, social studies, and math-- and their teachers were interested in enhancing their classroom learning with real-world experience.

Hunter's Point Community Middle School students pose outside of NYU Grossman School of Medicine’s Department of Population Health.

During their visit, we had the chance to introduce the City Health Dashboard to these students. The Dashboard’s Co-Primary Investigator and the Chair of the Division of Epidemiology, Dr. Lorna Thorpe highlighted potential career paths in epidemiology and the ways students can impact population health. Dr. Ben Spoer, who manages data and analytics for the Dashboard, introduced important concepts like social determinants of health and health equity, and led the students through a tour of the Dashboard and how epidemiologists might use it to improve health.

As part of the activity, the students were each given the role of mayors of their desired city. As city mayors, they were tasked with exploring potential challenges and disparities within their city. The students used the Dashboard to explore health metrics across neighborhoods within their city and then compared those metrics to neighborhoods in New York City. They were surprised to discover various health issues facing their community, such as diabetes and smoking rates, and differences in violent crime rates between New York City and Detroit.

The students were excited to then share this new information with their peers and family. “One of my students, Alix, told me the next day that she couldn't stop talking about the trip to her family at home AND that she is now considering becoming an epidemiologist,” says Taryn Martinez, a Hunter’s Point Community Middle School teacher. As a team of epidemiologists, that is music to our ears.

The City Health Dashboard's Manager of Data and Analytics, Dr. Ben Spoer, leads the students in a group activity exploring neighborhoods on the Dashboard.

Events like these allow the Dashboard to connect with users who bring a fresh perspective to health data, and learn how the tool can help educate future public health professionals. We’re proud that educators are using the City Health Dashboard as part of their curriculum to introduce these complex, but important topics to this generation of students, and that young people are responding so positively to this interactive tool. Who knows, one of these students might help solve some of the future’s biggest public health challenges.

Have you used the tool in your classroom? Interested in learning how? Let us know on Twitter @CityHealthData or email us at [email protected].

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