Learning about community health first-hand in underserved rural areas of New Mexico: A Field Experience Approach

Authors: Moralez, EA,; Mandall, KN; Englund, K; Drennan, M; Loest, H; Thompson, B

Category: Cancer Health Disparities
Conference Year: 2020

Abstract Body:
Purpose The Partnership between New Mexico State University and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center developed a Health Disparities Field Experience (HDFE) to provide experiential learning about cancer health disparities in the New Mexico border region and Navajo Country. Six graduate students provided pre- and post-test information about knowledge, attitudes, and intended practices about the field experience. Methods The six students spent one week doing online coursework, then traveled along the New Mexico-Mexico border and the Navajo Nation visiting rural health clinics and hospitals. A pre- test asked four questions about attitudes toward the US health system, two knowledge questions about cancer health disparities, and a question about intent to enter a health disparities career. A post-test asked the same questions, and also asked qualitative questions about the impact of the experience. Results The respondents showed virtually no difference in attitudes over time. Knowledge was improved from 3.6 to 4.0 on a 5 point scale (where 5 was the highest knowledge level). There was no change in intent to go into a health disparities career (2.2 on a 5 point scale where 1 was the highest level). There was an increase in understanding health disparities from a non- coursework perspective from 3.0 to 2.0 (on a 5-point scale where 1 was the highest increase). Post-test qualitative responses indicated that three of the participants saw racism as a primary cause of cancer-related disparities, which was a change from their pre-test. When asked about the personal impact of the HDFE, respondents selected the experiential component; as one participant noted, "it's one thing to read about communities in journals and publications and to learn about them in a classroom setting. However, it's another to be able to interact with community members and better understand their experiences from their perspectives." Conclusions Participants learned about health disparities from the HDFE and expressed high satisfaction with this approach to education.

Keywords: Cancer health disparities, experiential learning