Here’s the first in a series of articles by students and staff on Legislative Day 2017.

There’s nothing like presenting a proposal face-to-face with an elected official to bring home the powerful concepts of advocacy and democracy in action. Second-year college students from Kent State University, the University of Akron and Youngstown State University visited NEOMED on July 28 for that opportunity on Legislative Day, one of NEOMED’s signature traditions.

Groups of students from each school who were enrolled in the eight-week Summer Practicum in Public Health had been given real-world assignments: Research a public health problem in dental health, mental health, opiate addiction, infant mortality or sexually transmitted infections and then propose a practical regional solution for their respective counties. Posters that each group created on their topic were displayed in the lobby outside Watanakunakorn Auditorium.

As the capstone to all of their work, student groups met individually to present their plans and receive feedback from the day’s distinguished visitors: Representative Marlene Anielski (R) District 6; Representative John Boccieri (D) District 59; Jared Holt, director of state government relations at The University of Toledo; Sarah Lowry (D), Northeast Ohio Regional Representative for U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown; and Joshua Prest (R), Northeast District Representative for U.S. Senator Rob Portman.

It was an exciting visit to campus for these pre-selected students who will begin at NEOMED’s College of Medicine in fall 2018.

Combating a Stigma

The implementation of educational programs and phone apps to decrease social stigmas and raise awareness of resources associated with community-based mental health were hot topics at this year’s Legislative Day. Students from The University of Akron proposed their plan for an online mental health awareness course to legislator Jared Holt (pictured above).

To combat the stigma surrounding mental health, the UA student team created the Mental Health Awareness Student Course (MHASC), proposing that it be integrated into already existing public school health curriculums throughout suburban, rural and urban high schools in Summit County. MHASC would come fully equipped with various modules and educational videos discussing different mental disorders, ways to cope with stress, and warning signs of suicide. With the guidance of an advisor and selected medical school students, local educators would be trained to integrate MHASC into their curriculum. The program includes a contact list of mental health service providers throughout Ohio and Summit County.

The UA student group hopes that anonymity provided by the MHASC program would encourage students to be honest when answering the surveys and give them the skills and confidence to recognize when someone else—a classmate, friend or family member—needs help.

Supporting Public Health in the Community

The Summer Practicum in Public Health was coordinated by Kim M.K. Trowbridge, M.Ed., a graduate faculty member in the Department of Family and Community Medicine. Through NEOMED’s  College of Graduate Studies, Trowbridge is also faculty for the Consortium of Eastern Ohio Master of Public Health program, a nontraditional program geared toward the working professional.

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