1 Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Santé Publique (EHESP) (FRANCE)
2 Gillings School of Global Public Health University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNITED STATES)
3 University of Health Sciences Ministry of Health Vientiane (LAO PEOPLE'S DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC)
4 Mayes College of Healthcare Business & Policy University of the Sciences Philadelphia (UNITED STATES)
5 Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health (UNITED STATES)
6 University of Maastricht (NETHERLANDS)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2011 Proceedings
Publication year: 2011
Pages: 5499-5508
ISBN: 978-84-615-3324-4
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 4th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 14-16 November, 2011
Location: Madrid, Spain
Introduction: EUROPUBHEALTH is a 2-year ERASMUS MUNDUS Public Health Master programme coordinated by the EHESP School of Public Health France. Integration modules bring together students from more than 20 countries each year in Rennes. Integration Module 1: Global Dimensions of Public Health focuses on the needs of ‘hard to reach’ populations. Training combines lectures, workshops and student group work using Problem Based Learning (PBL) scenarios. The latter are facilitated by Erasmus Mundus Scholars who are public health academics from third countries outside Europe. PBL encourages student autonomy and critical thinking. Students are presented with PBL cases specially designed by the Scholars to offer a framework for exploring scientific and practice issues related to ‘hard to reach groups’. Beyond these aspects, we suggest that the PBL process mirrors, highlights and develops crosscutting competencies particularly relevant for work with socially vulnerable groups, such as ethnic minorities and other marginalized groups such as sex workers. We have set out to explore and test this hypothesis further.

Teaching Methods and Data Collection: Following an induction session in which the principles and methods of PBL were explained, students in small multicultural and multidisciplinary groups were assigned case scenarios. Using the Maastricht PBL 7 steps, Moust, Bouhuijs & Schmidt (2007), they explored salient aspects of their cases and defined their own learning objectives. They then drew up concrete solutions to the problems revealed and presented the results as executive summaries and group oral presentations. An international panel of public health academics and health professionals assessed these. Informed by information previously collected from diaries of former students, qualitative methodology was designed to explore how PBL may favour the development of skills in teamwork, cultural mediation and communication. Students and scholars were invited to participate in semi-directive interviews and focus groups using a purposeful sample of five students and the three Erasmus Mundus Scholars. Students also were asked for their views via a written exam question.

Results: Initial results from analysis of focus groups and semi-directive interviews suggest that PBL is especially well adapted to simulating complex global public health problem solving conditions in which team skills are vital. In particular, students noted that the group activities developed personal and professional skills including time management, critical thinking, tolerance, language adaptability, respect for cultural differences, listening capacity, group leadership and consensus-building, presentation skills and conflict mediation.

Implications for Practice: Within a multicultural and multilingual world, such skills are a necessary complement to more traditional, content-based curricula knowledge. PBL is well adapted to providing the necessary framework for the exploration and development of crosscutting global public health competencies especially needed for tackling hard-to-reach group issues. It is further suggested that PBL demands careful preparation and training of group facilitators prior to use with student groups.
Global public health, Problem based learning, Erasmus Mundus, Europubhealth, Pedagogy, Crosscutting competencies, Cross-cultural training.