Feb. 03 2020

Student Opinionmakers

This fall, first-year master’s students staked out positions on a variety of public health topics by writing op-eds. Five standout examples are published online today.

Written with passion and persuasion, the student op-eds advocate for policies and programs they say can improve collective health and promote social justice for marginalized groups.

The op-ed exercise trains MPH students to both sharpen their ability to write effectively and to use their public health knowledge to advocate to external audiences. The assignment is meant to empower students to add their voice to important public health conversations and to bring ideas and information that the world needs to make evidence-based decisions in the face of complex and conflicting information.

In a historical look at the systematic marginalization of midwives, Kennedy Austin argues that the profession has the potential to redress present-day shortages in maternal healthcare while reducing racial disparities. “Midwives view equity and equality as imperative to health,” she writes.

Mara Greenberg offers her own history lesson about the role highways have played in segregating urban populations. In her view, infrastructure projects that reconnect the urban grid may help heal these wounds.

Federal agencies too often reject grant applications by Native American communities based on “evidence-based” requirements that are dismissive of indigenous health practices. “New, inclusive standards,” are needed, writes McKenzie Bennett.

If bicycle helmets protect us from head injuries we should mandate their use with bike-share programs. Not so, says Rebecca Smith, who argues that these helmet requirements discourage cycling and can lead to targeted enforcement in lower-income communities.

Writing from personal experience, Veronica Karp calls out doctors who stigmatize mental illness and misattribute physical symptoms to their patients’ mental illness—a phenomenon called diagnostic overshadowing. To remedy the problem, she calls for implicit bias training.

“Throughout the [Columbia Public Health] Core, we’ve been exposed to issues impacting a myriad of different marginalized communities, including LGBTQ+ individuals, ethnic and racial minorities, immigrants/refugees, etc. I’ve really appreciated that I’ve been able to discuss these issues openly and in a safe space with my peers,” Karp reflects. “I think that my ability to hear so many different perspectives has made me a more competent public health professional.”