Stephanie Carey
Environmental Studies, Health, Medicine and Nursing, Communication, Nutrition, Social Science, Political Science
Material Type:
Activity/Lab, Assessment, Homework/Assignment
Community College / Lower Division, College / Upper Division
Advocacy, Community Health, Environmental Health, Policy, Prevention
Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike
Media Formats:
Text/HTML, Video

Course Alignments

Community Engagement for Health--Student Activity

Community Engagement for Health--Student Activity


A key theme of this course is that most health outcomes are driven by personal behavior choices, but that those choices are made in the context of the neighborhoods where we live, work, and play.  A corollary to this theme is that engaged citizens are healthier citizens (defined as a "resident of a particular city").


The object of this project is to take the principles learned in the classroom and apply them in a community environment: observe an issue in the community, document it through video/audio commentary, then use the tools of advocacy to address the issue.

While designed for a Public Health course, this activity can be adapted for any topic where community organizing can lead to positive change.

Picture a Healthier Neighborhood Video Journal and Advocacy Brief

Unit of Study Context:

A key theme of this course is that most health outcomes are driven by personal behavior choices, but that those choices are made in the context of the neighborhoods where we live, work, and play.  A corollary to this theme is that engaged citizens are healthier citizens (defined as “an inhabitant of a particular town or city”).

The ultimate object of this course is to take the principles learned in the classroom and apply them in a community environment.

Relevant course materials are described under “Materials Required”, below.

After 3 initial units on public health definitions and structure, the course turns to units on specific public health issues:  Infectious disease, Chronic Disease, health behaviors, injury prevention, maternal and child health, pollution.  Each of these issues can be addressed using the context of the ecological model and the Social Determinants of Health.

The ecological model also works in addressing social welfare, educational attainment, economic vibrancy, and mental health concerns.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Empower students to be able to identify health problems in their community.
  • Students will be able to identify underlying risk factors within the community that contribute to health problems
  • Foster students’ community engagement to improve health
  • Students will be able to link how a specific policy decision can impact a specific health outcome
  • Students will be able to provide data and give examples to support their position in support of the policy
  • Students will be able to describe in which level in the Ecological Model their proposed policy intervention resides (Institutional, Community, Legislative)


Students will be able to demonstrate their understanding of community risk/protective factors through a pair of products that will be shared within the class.  These products can be then reviewed for public sharing/sharing with community organizations to build support for taking action to address community health issues.

“Picture a Healthier Neighborhood”  (approximately Week 8)—Student will produce a 5-minute video (or podcast)  describing a health issue/condition in their community that is important to them.

Discussion Board:  Sharing of Videos and Podcasts (approximately Week 10)-- Students will share their product in a discussion board post, and review and comment on at least 2 other students' products.

Policy Brief for Advocacy (Week 15)—Students will prepare a two-page advocacy brief designed to persuade decision-makers to take a specific action to correct the community issue (or related issue).  Students are encouraged to share their completed Briefs with an elected leader, a community organization, or an agency that is responsible for addressing the issue.  Posting these briefs as an end of semester discussion board can complete the circle for these projects.

Grading Rubrics -- 50 points for each project (plus 10 points for participation in Discussion Board)

Picture a Healthier Neighborhood Rubric (Video or podcast)

  • Demonstration of Public Health Issue  in the selected neighborhood   10 points
  • Demonstration of Risk Factors for the selected health issue in that neighborhood 10 Points
  • Use of Data to describe problem in the neighborhood context  9 points
  • Examples/Storytelling show what the problem looks like in “real life”   10 points
  • Description/examples of possible solutions   8 points
  • “Production Value”—Engaging, Concise  3 points

Policy Brief Rubric

  • Description of Public Health policy recommendation: Clear Statement of policy preference and defines what the policy-maker should do  10 points
  • Use of data to describe problem, sources cited in bibliography.    10 points
  • Risk factors described: Describe the factors that contribute to problem to be solved, and how the recommended action will address the problem  9 points
  • Examples (Graphics or story)  illustrate health issue 8 points
  • Policy Implications : Describes trends expected if policy is adopted (or not adopted) with data 10 points
  • Writing style: Concise (fits on 2 pages), clear, spelled correctly   3 points

Discussion Board Rubric

  • Posting of the Video/audio "Picture a Healthier Neigborhood" piece  4 points
  • Review and reply to 2 other students' work   3 points
  • Feedback from other students   3 points

Open Pedagogy:

This project incorporates the following) attributes of Open Pedagogy:

Participatory Technologies--  Use of video, and of podcast formats can better engage visual learners and auditory learners

People, Openness, trust—The project calls for looking at a local neighborhood.  This calls for looking at one’s own community with a critical/analytical eye.  That also requires building trust among class members, if these topics touch on issues that impact a student personally.  

The “Picture a Healthier Neighborhood” project might not work for everyone:  people who have privacy concerns, or people who are processing trauma, may not be willing to share that closely.  Students can opt to talk about a problem in a neighborhood that is more remote to them; to use an audio recording rather than a visual recording, or to participate in journaling to describe the impacts of a public health.

Likewise,  not all students will be comfortable with immediately sharing their Policy Briefs with a government agency.  The intention is to create a catalog of these policy briefs that other community members can access to share with decision-makers.

Innovation & creativity--  Students will be creating a visual or audio “picture” commenting on what is impacting health in their neighborhood.  Whether it is tagged as photojournalism, documentary, or art, it will be an original piece of storytelling.

Connected community—The nature of this project is engaging students in their neighborhood, and building connections within it.

Learner generated--  Students will observe their own community to create content that gives examples of how community conditions impact health outcomes, and share these findings with their peers.

Peer Review--  Videos, podcasts, and policy briefs will be posted within Blackboard (or within a designated unlisted YouTube site) for peer viewing and comment.   After review, and with student consent, these videos, podcasts, and briefs may be shared on OpenEd CUNY

Materials required

-- shows that policy and environmental change impacts all levels of health behavior change 

-- shows which evidence-based practices are most effective in achieving improved health outcomes

shows that community connection is demonstrated to improve health outcomes; that isolation and loneliness kills.  This is an important lesson as we emerge from pandemic-related shutdowns.

Tech requirements

Students would need a smart phone with video capability, or a laptop/tablet with video or audio recording capability.  A video editing program (Screencast-o-matic or equivalent) is useful.

Students without access to such technology may choose a journaling option.

Accessibility & Universal Design for Learning

Students will have the choice as to whether to produce a video, or to create a podcast.  The topic materials are drawn from the neighborhood in which they live, work, or play. Alternative modalities could include journaling, or addressing an issue in another neighborhood in which the student is interested that is not necessarily their home

There certainly could be cases in which there are privacy concerns for topics that are literally “close to home”. Alternatives would be to describe a problem in another geographic area, or to use journaling about health issues, or to attribute this product to the course title and not themselves for any public use.

Students must be caustioned to be aware of their own safety-- to not photograph/record people who do not want to be photographed.  Alternative means of describing the problem could be narrative, or talking to neighbors about their concerns.

The project could become about the barriers the student faces—lack of wheelchair ramps, lack of outreach to communities speaking other languages.


Instructions and Materials

“Picture a Healthy Neighborhood” Student Instructions

Throughout the semester, this course has emphasized the impact of community environment (both physical and social environment) as the primary driver of health outcomes.  Now, you will take what you have learned, and show how this looks in a real neighborhood.

Identify a health problem in your neighborhood (or a nearby neighborhood) that resonates with you.   Identify some of the underlying risk factors in that neighborhood that make the  problem worse. 

In a five-minute video, walk around your neighborhood to show examples of what that problem looks like in your neighborhood. OR in a 5-to-10-minute podcast, talk with neighbors or community members about this issue in your neighborhood.

Think of health broadly—not just in terms of disease, but in factors that make it easier to be healthy.  Here are some examples of themes you might want to chose from:

  • Are there safe and nearby playgrounds for children to be active in?
  • Are there places to buy fresh vegetables and other healthy foods nearby?
  • Does the neighborhood feel safe to walk in?  Are streets well lit? Are crosswalks and bike lanes available?
  • Are there places for youth to gather and get support from caring adults?

Or other community issues that resonate with you.

Be mindful of your own safety when deciding about your project.  Do not photograph/record people who don't want to be recorded.  Think of alternative ways to tell the story-- through narrative, or talking with concerned neighbors.

Your video/podcast should include:

  • Demonstration of Public Health Issue  in the selected neighborhood  
  • Demonstration of Risk Factors for the selected health issue in that neighborhood
  • Use data to describe problem in the neighborhood context 
  • Include Examples/Storytelling show what the problem looks like in “real life” 
  • Description/examples of possible solutions  
  • The video should be engaging and concise 

Note: if you are unable to make a video or audio recording (due to technology or privacy concerns), contact the instructor about an alternative journaling assignment.

Discussion Board Instructions

Upload your video or audio file to the Blackboard Discussion Board tab so that others can view it.   YOu may include a brief introductory paragraph to set the contects for your work. 

Then view and comment on at least 2 classmates’ work.  Include context such as neighborhood risk factors, possible solutions, or how this work might be used in other neighborhoods.


Policy Brief Assignment—Student Instructions

Policy Briefs are intended to be a summary of talking points to encourage decision-makers (whether an elected leader or a public or private official) to adopt a specific policy or practice. 

In the “Picture a Healthier Neighborhood” assignment, you identified a community health issue that resonated with you and provided illustrations of how that impacts the community.  Your policy Brief is the next step in bringing positive change to address that issue. If you have ever thought about writing to an elected official, or to speaking up at a public meeting, this is a starting point!

Review the course materials regarding policy, community environment, and social determinants of health (described above).

Identify a related policy change that you believe would address the concern you identified and write about it in a two-page brief.

Your policy brief should be two pages plus a reference page. You should cite references from health care or public health literature, using 2  to 5 total references. Your writing should be clear,  concise, persuasive, demonstrate an understanding of the public health issue you are discussing, and reflect a thoughtful and considered opinion. It should be free of spelling and grammar errors, and should be visually appealing.


From What Makes a Good Policy Brief (Lewis, 2009), the best policy briefs:

  • Are short and a bit repetitive. Policymakers may just scan the page, so provide multiple opportunities to grasp the most important points.
  • They use common terms, spell out every acronym, and are easily understood by people who are not familiar the issue.
  • Policy briefs are primarily used by those with relatively little context or additional information, and your document must stand on its own.
  • Provide sufficient evidence to present a compelling story about why change is needed.
  • State a policy preference, and clearly and persuasively explain why this is the best option.

Here are some examples of what the briefs could look like, from NJ Society of Professional Health Educators:

NJSOPHE - Position Briefs

Additional examples from the National Association of County & City Health Officials:  (Note that some of the NACCHO examples exceed the 2-page standard requested in this assignment)

In addition to submitting in the Assignment tab, you must also post your completed brief in the Discussion Board in the Week 15 folder.  Read and comment on at least two of your classmates’ briefs.